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you nor your Lieutenant, to proceed to the punishment of any person, by loss of life or limb, unless the party shall be judged to have deserved it by the rest of your assistants, or, at the least, by four of them; and that which shall concern life, to be by the verdict of twelve men of the company employed on this voyage, to be impannelled for that purpose, with the observation of the form of our country's laws in that behalf, as near as you may.
Art. 9 directs the commander “ to go on your course by the Cape of Good Hope, not passing by the Strait of Magelhaens, either going or returning, except upon great occasion incident, that shall be thought otherwise good to you, by the advice and consent of your assistants.
“ Art. 10. You shall not pass to the north-eastward of the 40th degree of latitude, at the most, but shall take your right course to the Isles of the Moluccas, for the better discovery of the North-West Passage, if without hindrance of your trade, and within the same degree, you can get any knowledge concerning that passage, whereof you shall do well to be inquisitive, as occasion in this sort
To succeed in finding the North-West Passage at or below the 40th degree of latitude would indeed be passing strange! It raises a suspicion, as insinuated, that these Instructions were drawn up as a blind; and that, through the influence of the two Earls of Leicester and Cumberland, they had contrived to give legally, as it were, a voyage to Fenton, similar to that which had so recently enriched Drake, by which he might have opportunities of making reprisals on Spanish ships, or depredations on Spanish possessions. Fenton was
prohibited from going to the north beyond the 40th degree, where only a passage could be found; but he was unlimited in going to the south, where all the Spanish possessions lay. The prohibition of passing the Strait of Magelhaens, twice repeated in the Instructions, looks very like an apprehension that the voyage might be considered as following up
that of Drake, which would involve Elizabeth in the suspicion of sanctioning the same practices, two of her ships now forming the most considerable part of the force of the expedition.
The ships left Plymouth in May, 1582, and arrived at Sierra Leone, in want of provisions, their flour having proved naught, and unfit for use : they therefore exchanged their pinnace for a cargo of rice, and some other provisions. Thence proceeding down the coast, and trafficking with the natives, they crossed over to the Brazils, anchored in a small bay, and with a net caught at one draught six hundred large mullets, and six great basses. Departing thence, they captured a small Spanish ship carrying passengers, whom they liberated after two days, detaining only a couple, and taking some sugar and ginger from her. From these passengers Captain Fenton learned, that a Spanish fleet, under Diego Flores de Valdes, had departed from Rio de Janeiro six weeks before, for the purpose of waiting in the Strait to intercept him; notwithstanding which, after a consultation, it
was resolved to proceed and pass the Strait of Magelhaens; and they set sail for that purpose; but as second thoughts are sometimes best, they agreed, in the first place, to call at Port St. Vincent, to victual and procure necessaries before they proceeded farther. This port was preferred to the river Plate, as less likely there to be betrayed to De Valdes; but the precaution was unnecessary, for the Francis, having parted from the fleet, got into the river Plate, where she was cast away, but the crew saved, and kept among savages fifteen months.
A few days after Fenton had entered the river of Port St. Vincent, three Spanish ships were observed to anchor on the bar. Captain Ward of the Bonaventure went on board his Admiral to learn what he meant to do. He was told he had determined to set his watch in a warlike manner, which
may be supposed to mean, that he had made up his mind to fight them, and so Captain Ward understood it; nothing more appears to have passed between them, but without further delay a very smart action commenced by moonlight, which was only suspended by the setting of that planet, when the Spanish Vice-Admiral is said to have been left “in a miserable torn condition,” so much, indeed, that at daybreak they observed her sunk very near to them, “ with some of her crew yet hanging about her shrouds, most of whom were drowned.” A second fight commenced, and was continued the whole morning, “till both sides being wearied, the English stood out to sea, and the two remaining Spaniards proceeded up the river.”
What happened between the Admiral and the Vice-Admiral when at sea does not appear, but after a very short time they parted company. Both, however, seem to have made, by mutual agreement or otherwise, the best of their way home; and thus ended this ill-fated expedition, got up with much care and at a great expense, and attended with loss of life and fortune to many, with very little honour and no profit either public or private. Considering the total deviation by Captain Fenton from his instructions, the wasting his time on the coasts of Africa and the Brazils, and resolving to proceed by a route which his instructions strictly forbade him to pursue, it is remarkable that no notice should have been taken, on his return, either of his disobedience or of the total failure of the expedition in consequence thereof. It certainly does not appear that he had lost any credit with the public, or that his character in the naval service was at all damaged by his failure. Perhaps the interposition of one or both the Earls may have prevented any inquiry into the matter; perhaps also the Council may have discouraged it, seeing cause to ascribe something to the ambiguity of their instructions.
We find no further mention of the name of Captain Fenton until the year 1588, when he appears as commander of the Mary Rose, of 600 tons, in one list, on the authority of Sir W. Monson ; and of the Antelope, 400, in another list, inserted in Stow's Annals. He was probably selected by the Lord High Admiral on account of his skill in seamanship, which must have been well known to Frobisher. That he took a distinguished share in the defeat of the Spanish Armada has been already noticed, and it is mainly on that score that it was considered an act of justice to include his name in the list of worthies recorded in this volume.
How his future life was employed, there is no clue to guide us; but it appears that his residence was at Deptford, where he might perhaps have had some civil situation in the naval establishments, if there were any there at that time, or in the
corporation of Trinity. He died there in the spring of the year 1603, in the church of which town is erected a monument to his memory, by Roger Earl of Corke, who married his brother's daughter, and which bears the following inscription :
“ Memoriæ perenni Edwardi Fenton, Reginæ Elizabethæ olim pro corpore armigeri, Jano O'Neal, ac post eum Comite Desmoniæ, in Hiberniâ turbantibus, fortissimi Taxiarchi, qui post lustratum, improbo ausu, septentrionalis plagæ apochryphum mare et excussas variis peregrinationibus inertis