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There are three of the whoies (hoys) here allreddye with Beere and bred, and the rest, beinge seven more, haue order to come hither. We will relyeve suche as be in necessitie and bringe awaie the rest with us.
The Beare hath a leake which is thought to be verie lowe, yet, my Lord, will followe your Lordshippe.
The Elizabeth Jonas and the Tryumphe drave the last stormie nighte, beinge Mondaye, since which time we haue not heard of theim, But this faire weather I hope your Lordshippe shall heare of them at the fforelande. As I wrote this letter more of the Victuallers are come. There is 14 daies victuall in theim, for the shippes under your Lordshippes charge as I learne. And so prayinge to God to send us shortlye to meete with your Lordshippe I humbly take my leave from Harwich, the 8 of August 1588. Your honourable llordship’s moste bounden, (Signed)
John HAWKYNS. * The next we hear of Hawkins is from the Downs (Dover), where no doubt the great operation was going on of paying off the fleet. By a letter from him to the Lord Treasurer it would appear, from the mention he makes of a “sharp letter” he had received from his Lordship, that something had gone amiss in his new employment. After a long account of his labours and troubles he says—“ I pray God I may end this account to Her Majestie’s and your Lordship’s lyking, and avoyd myne owne undoying, and I trust God will so provyde for me, as I shall never meddell with soche intrycatte matters more.” f
The following letter, however, shows that his troubles were on the increase : * MS. State Paper Office. 4 Ibid.
Sir John HAWKINS TO THE LORD TREASURER.
April 16th, 1590. My bownden dewtye in humble manner Remembryd unto your good Lordship, I do perseve Her Majestie ys not well sattysfyed concernyng the imployments of the great somes of mony that haue byne Reseavyd into th' office of the navye although your honor dyd, very honorably, bothe take payne and care to se the strycte, and orderly course that ys usyd in th’ office, and therupon delyver your mynd playnely to Her Majestie as your Lordship fownd it, for which I shall ever accknowlege myself dewtyfully bownd to honour and serve your Lordship to the uttermost of my abyllytye, and wheras Her Heighnes pleasure ys to be farther satysfyed in myne accompts, ther hathe nothyng byne more desyred, nor cold be more wellcome, or acceptable to me, and when yt shal be Her Majesties pleasure to nomynate the persons that I shall attend upon, I wyll breffly shew the statte of every yers accompt, suffycyentlye avouched by boocks to the last day of desember 1588, which ys 11 yeres whereof fyve yers are past by duplycaments, before your Lordship, three yeres are past by lyke duplycaments firmyd by Sir Water Myldmay, and the barons of the exchequyre, by your Lordshipes order, tow yeres boocks are yett with the awdytours, and the last boocke ys in my hond firmyd by th' officers, reddy to be delyveryd to the awdytours: upon the fynyshynge of th’other tow books allredy in ther hands.
If any wordly thynge that I possesse cold free me of this mystrust & impertyble care & toyle, I wold most wyllyngly depart with yt, for as the case stondethe I thynke ther ys no man lyvynge that hathe so carefull, so myserable, so infortunate, and so dangeerows a lyfe; onelye I se your Lordship with care and trewthe dothe serche into the trew order, the sufficiencye, and valyditie of the course that ys caryed in the office, whiche otherwyse I wold even playnely gyve over my place, and submyt my selfe to Her Majesties mercye, though I lyvyd in pryson all the dayes of my lyffe.
The matters in th' office growe infenyte and chargeabell beyond all measure, and soche as hardly any man can gyve a reason of the innumerable busynesses that dayly grow, yet the mystrust ys more trobelsome, and grevous, then all the rest, for with the answerynge of th’ one, and towle of th' other, ther ys hardly any time left to serve God, or to sattysfye man. The greater sort that serve in this office be growen so prowd, obstynate, and insolent, that nothynge can sattysfye them, and the commen sort very dysobedient, so as a man that must answere the immoderate desyre of all these, were better to chuse to dye then to lyve. The paynfull place which your Lordship dothe hold, & the imoderate demaunds that comes before you, havyng with the favour of Her Majestie the hellp of an absolute power to bynd & lose, may esilye demonstrate the borden that so meane a man as I ame dothe bere (which must passe every thynge by petycion and mystrust) to sattysfye the multytude of demaunds that are in this offiyce; and although they be many, and as well sattysfyed as in any office in all Inglond, yet few are contentyd, but go away with grudgyng and mourmoure.
It were a great vanytye for me to comend myne owne service, neyther do I go abowt to accumylatte to my sellf any comendacion, for that I thowght I never performyd my dewtye sufficyently, but yf th' estate of th' office be consyderyd, what yt was when I came into yt, and what yt ys now, ther wylbe fownd great odds wherin I haue traveyled as carefully as I cold, and as my creddytt cold obtayne meane, to reduce the state of the shipes, and theire fornyture, into good and perfytt order. In Recompence wherof my onely desyre ys that yt may please Her Majestię some course may be taken wherin Her Majestie may be sattysfyed that a playne and honest course hathe byne taken, and caryed, in th' office, and then to dyspose of my place to whome yt shall please Her Heighnes, & I shal be reddy to serve Her Majestie any other way that I shalbe appoyntyd, wherin my skyll or abyllytye wyll extend, & so I humbly take my leve from deptford the 16 of Aprill 1590.
Your llordships ever bownden,
When Hawkins found that the partial paying off the Armada fleet did not release him from the intolerable annoyance of receiving, keeping, and paying money, and, which was still worse, of making out such accounts as would satisfy the scrutinizing eye of the Lord High Treasurer Burleigh, he took the first occasion that presented itself of offering his services afloat. The dolorous terms in which his letters were couched show a mind ill at ease and ready, on any terms, to get rid of the distressing occupation that appears to have overwhelmed him. An opportunity offered this year (1590), which afforded him a present but not a permanent relief. From the good effects experienced by the ruin of the Spanish Armada, the Queen was resolved to follow up the blow by increasing her naval force, and to this end to appropriate an annual sum of money to keep her ships in repair ; being well convinced that her navy alone must be the surest force for preventing her inveterate enemy of Spain from making fura ther attempts to insult the coasts of England cr Ireland; and the successful exploits of Drake, on two
* MS. State Paper Office,
occasions, had fully satisfied her mind that the most effectual mode of harassing and crippling the Spaniard was, to attack him at home in his own ports, and to intercept his treasure-ships on their return.
A fleet, therefore, was fitted out in the year 1590 to proceed upon the coast of Spain, to effect there all the mischief it could do, and on the same occasion to proceed into the track of the Plate ships. For this purpose the Queen assigned ten of her own ships, which were to be divided into two squadrons, the one to be commanded by Sir John Hawkins, the other by Sir Martin Frobisher, two officers of her own choice, and well known by their great and tried experience. The ships selected were the Revenge, the Mary Rose, the Lion, the Bonaventure, the Rainbow, the Hope, the Crane, the Acquittance, the Foresight, and the Swiftsure. The officers appointed to serve under the two commanders were most of them experienced in the service- Captain Fenner, who made a part of almost every expedition, Sir Edward York, Captain George Bristow, Captain Bostock, Captain Burnell, and Captain Hawkins, son of the Admiral.
This fleet first proceeded down the coast of Spain, where they soon discovered, that intelligence had been received in Madrid, detailing the number and names of the English ships, and of the two commanders; as also what were the objects under which they were to act. They discovered, more