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At the close of his discourse on the North-west Passage, Sir Humphrey says, “He is not worthy to live at all, who, for fear or danger of death, shunneth his country's service, or his own honour, since death is inevitable, and the fame of virtue immortal.” *
It may safely be observed, that the exertions and adventures of the Northern Worthies were not made in vain, and that posterity, even down to our times, have benefited by them. To Sir Humphrey we are indebted for the settlement of Newfoundland, and that valuable branch of commerce, the cod fishery on its banks; to Davis we owe the lasting and profitable employment of the whale fishery, in the strait that bears his name, which was somewhat deteriorated only a few years ago ; and by the first of these northern adventurers, Frobisher, was shown the way to that strait and bay, which Hudson many years afterwards explored, and to which he gave his name; and on the shores of the latter were established the factories of a company of merchants, bearing the name of the Hudson's Bay Company, whose concerns have been carried on to such an extent, as to embrace the greater part of the northern coast of North America, and are still in a progressive state of flourishing activity. Such is, and such must ever be, the happy result of that power which springs from knowledge.
CAPTAIN SIR JOHN HAWKINS.
1562 to 1595.
FIRST VOYAGE, 1562.
John HAWKINS was one of the most distinguished sea-officers in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. His father, William Hawkins, was a gentleman of good estate, a great part of it accumulated by industry and peculiar success in his sea voyages, chiefly to Brazil. He obtained the personal esteem of Henry VIII., originating in his having brought over a Brazilian Prince, whom he introduced to that monarch, and with whom he was much delighted. The kind and gentle manner of Hawkins so won upon this native Prince, that he volunteered to go with him to England, on condition that he would give him a passage back, and leave one of his own men as a hostage for his safe return.* Captain Hawkins, punctual to his engagement, embarked him at Plymouth; but on the passage out, the young man was seized with a disorder of which he died. This was exceedingly distressing to Hawkins, from apprehension of what might befal the hostage he had left; but the people, savages as they were represented,
relied on what he told them, and immediately set the hostage, Martin Cockeram, at liberty, who returned with his old master, and obtained some small office in Plymouth, where he continued till his death.*
* John, the second son of William Hawkins, was born at Plymouth about the year 1520.1 From an early period of his life he became addicted to navigation, and made several voyages to Spain, Portugal, and the Canaries, in all of which he was encouraged by his father; so that, while yet young, he acquired the reputation of a skilful seaman. So high did his character stand in this respect, that the sons of several gentlemen embarked with him, as volunteers, for the purpose of gaining instruction in sea affairs. Among them was the son of his own brother, and Sir Francis Drake himself, with several of his brothers, all of whom became celebrated as among the first of able sea officers. I :
Readers of the present day, however, will not be disposed to think the better of John Hawkins, when told that he was the first Englishman regularly engaged in the African slave trade, and that the negroes he procured were mostly got by violence, and many of them by his own personal exertions. Some mention, however, is made of his father purchasing slaves on the coast of Africa for sale in the Brazils.
† Prince's Worthies of Devon.
In the year 1562, by his own exertions and the assistance of several adventurers, three ships were prepared to proceed to the coast of Guinea. At Sierra Leone, where he made some stay, he obtained, partly by the sword, and partly by other means, upwards of three hundred negroes and some other commodities, with which he departed for Hispaniola (Hayti or Domingo), where he found so good a market, that he speedily got rid of his whole cargo, with the returns of which he not only loaded his own ships, but freighted two hulks more, with articles for Spain, and arrived in England in September, 1563.
In the following year a second voyage of the same description as the first was undertaken. On this occasion he had two ships, the Jesus of Lubeck, of 700 tons, and the Solomon, of 140 tons, besides the bark Tyger, of 50 tons, and the Swallow, of 30 tons. In various places, at which he touched on the coast of Africa, negroes were obtained, some by force, others by purchase. At one place he received only ten negroes, “ obtained with the loss of seven of his best men, among whom was the captain of the Solomon, besides seven and twenty men wounded.”
On the 29th of January, 1565, departing from this unhappy country, Hawkins set sail for the West Indies with his cargo. It would afford but little interest to follow these slave-dealers to the
various islands and towns at which they disposed of their traffic. At St. Domingo an official command had been received “ to have no dealings with the English.” At Burboroata, on meeting with a refusal, Hawkins landed one hundred men, well armed, who marched directly up to the town, which soon “ brought the Spaniards to reason,” and they were admitted to trade in a peaceable manner. Having disposed of their cargoes, they ranged the coasts of America, procuring such supplies as they were in need of, till they reached the banks of Newfoundland, where they took a great quantity of cod, and with a favourable wind proceeded homewards, and arrived at Padstow about the end of September; “ bringing with them good store of gold, silver, pearl, jewels, and other commodities.”
The persons who joined Hawkins on this expedition were among the principal traders in the city of London ; and his skill and success in this new traffic, of seizing and selling human creatures into slavery, was so laudably spoken of, that it procured for him, from the Heralds' Office, a patent for his crest—a demi-Moor in his proper colour bound with a cord;— the very symbol that, more than two hundred years afterwards, was used as a stamp of infamy and disgrace on those concerned in such traffic.* That the trade, indeed, was in no respect considered dishonourable, may further he inferred by the Queen
* Life of Drake.