« EelmineJätka »
to pack up his booty, promising those who were with him that he would divide the whole spoil with them, provided they would promise, on their part, to stand by him, and the negroes did the same. The result, however, turned out most unfortunate, as has been seen.
On reaching Nombre de Dios, Oxenham found his ship there, but, to add to his misfortunes, in possession of the Spaniards. Intelligence had reached Peru; and the viceroy sent a party of one hundre and fifty soldiers to scour the mountains, into which about fifty had escaped ; they were speedily found, some sick, others made prisoners, and a few escaped ; but these were also soon taken, the negroes having betrayed them into the hands of the Spaniards, who conveyed the whole of them to Panama, to which place Oxenham was also sent. Here he was examined as to what authority he had from the Queen; and being unable to produce any power or commission, he and his comrades were sentenced to suffer death, as pirates and common enemies of mankind. They were accordingly executed, with the exception of Oxenham, his master, pilot, and five boys, who were so far pardoned, for the present, that they were sent to Lima to be disposed of by the authorities there. Oxenham and the two men suffered death, but the boys were pardoned.* Had Drake been caught, he would not only have suffered death,
but would have undergone every species of torment by the remorseless Inquisition.
The brave but unfortunate Oxenham certainly deserved a better fate. Seduced by the example of Drake and others, he, like them, conceived that to plunder the Spaniards was a meritorious service. Drake thought highly of him, and he appears to have been much beloved by all his comrades in the former voyage, and by his crew on the present one. Prince* says there is a family of this name at South Towton, near Okehampton, respecting which is the following strange and wonderful thing recorded :-“That, at the death of any of them, a bird with a white breast is seen for a while fluttering about the bed, and then suddenly to vanish away.” The same thing is told in the “Beauties of England” (article, Devon), and Southey mentions that there are several inscriptions on a tomb-stone, giving the names of the family to whom the bird had appeared
-to the mother, a son, two sisters, and some others; 66 to all of these there be divers witnesses, both squires and ladies, whose names are engraven upon the stone.”+ It may
be feared that poor Oxenham, the subject of this memoir, departed this life without experiencing the consolation of a visit from the whitebreasted bird.
* Worthies of Devon.
† Southey, from Howell.
CAPTAIN EDWARD FENTON.
1577 to 1588.
This officer appears to have borne a distinguished name, though without much service, and none of a brilliant character. He was descended from an old and respectable family in Nottinghamshire, and is said to have done good service in Ireland against the rebels, as is recorded in the inscription on his monument, but whether by sea or land, or both, is not stated: judging, however, from his future service in the navy, he must have been considered an active seaman. As such he was regarded by Frobisher, who appointed him, on his second Arctic voyage (1577), as captain of the Gabriel; and in the following year, he again accompanied that distinguished officer on his third voyage, as captain and rear-admiral of the Judith, one of the fifteen ships that were destined to form a settlement on Meta Incognita, under the command of Frobisher. Ten years after his return from this voyage, he had the good fortune to be selected (by Frobisher's recommendation probably) to command one of the ships in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and is well spoken of by the Lord High Admiral.
It is a remarkable fact that every officer who may have had a command in exploring the Arctic Seas, in search of a passage from the northern part of the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, from the days of Elizabeth to the present time, has fully satisfied himself of the uninterrupted continuity of the two oceans—a point that, in our time, has been incontestably proved, the whole northern coast of America having been traversed, by various parties, close along the shore of the Polar Sea; and the navigable part of the question is just now in the act of being decided, under the command of an officer, who was among the first in the field on former occasions, and who claims that command as his birthright: he goes under a strong conviction of success. It is a proud feature, and always has been in the naval service, that neither age, nor ease, nor the enjoyment of comfort at home, can deter its officers from embracing services, though surrounded with dangers and difficulties, when a feeling of duty, and a conviction of overcoming them, takes possession of their minds.
Whether Fenton was actuated by such a feeling there is no record to show; but, like Davis, he had fully persuaded himself that the discovery of a north-west passage was feasible, and that the attempt might be made with great probability of success— an opinion, indeed, very prevalent at that time. He was recommended by the Earl of Leicester, who had great influence with the Queen, as an officer well qualified to be employed on such a service, to which the Queen not only consented, but contributed two of her ships to be attached to the expedition. These were the Galleon Leicester (called the Bear in the Instructions), of 400 tons, Fenton the General, William Hawkins the Lieutenant-General; the Bonaventure, 300 tons, Luke Ward the ViceAdmiral; the Francis, 40 tons, Captain John Drake; and the Elizabeth, pinnace, 50 tons, Thomas Skevington, Commander.
The Earl of Cumberland was at this time bringing himself into notice, and into favour at court; to him was intrusted the charge of arranging matters for the voyage, to the expense of which, it is said, he largely contributed. When all was ready, the Lords of the Privy Council gave to Fenton a Code of Instructions of twenty-four articles, which are not remarkable for clearness, and are some of them liable to misconstruction. They begin very properly by inculcating the spirit and practice of religion, morality, justice, and humanity; and, for the first time, they confer a power over life and death, which had long been practically assumed by the General or Admiral of an expedition, but not allowable to inferior officers. The article runs thus:
Art. 5. After awarding punishments for certain offences, it proceeds
“ Provided always, and it shall not be lawful, neither for