HONORED AS A HERO YET CONDEMNED AS A CORSAIR.
The English people everywhere, understanding the real feelings which Elizabeth entertained for Drake, made him the hero of a hundred epics, and fawned and flattered him as far as the power of speech and action could go. There were others, however, whose commercial relations with Spain made it to their interest to deprecate his actions, who complained bitterly of the manner in which he had destroyed Spanish shipping and appropriated by force all the treasures that fell into his hands. They contended (and not without reason) that as England and Spain were at peace, such action branded Drake as a corsair, and demand was made for restitution of the property which he had acquired on his expedition. These objectors had such influence that at length Elizabeth, to avoid open rupture with Spain, caused the sequestration of the spoils which Drake had made, and after a year's litigation restored a considerable portion of the booty to Spanish claimants. But this small action in no wise conciliated Spain, who now prepared to make reprisals from the English, which soon afterwards led to the equipment of the Spanish Armada for the invasion of England, the final results of which are so well known to all readers of history.
A BANQUET ATTENDED BY THE QUEEN.
An open recognition and public reception were not accorded to Drake by Elizabeth until the 4th of April, 1581, nearly one year after his return, when she went on board the Golden Hind, which had been lying at the port of Deptford meanwhile, and partook of a magnificent banquet which Drake had prepared for his royal guest. At the conclusion of the dinner, the Queen manifested her
ATTACK ON ST. DOMINGO.
Hostilities with Spain began directly afterwards, and Drake, in connection with Sir Philip Sydney, was placed in command of an expedition sent out against the Spaniards in the West Indies. The armament consisted of twenty-five sail, of which two vessels were the Queen's own ships, while the force of seamen numbered 2,300. On the 24th of November, 1585, an attack was made on a village at St. Domingo, twelve miles in the interior, which was easily captured and the town burned. Several other towns shortly afterwards capitulated to the victorious English. But further hostilities were temporarily checked by the appearance of malignant fever, which quickly carried off between two and three hundred of Drake's men. After three months of inactivity, the fever having abated, the fleet sailed for another part of St. Domingo where an attack was made upon its chief city, and after a vigorous bombardment from the ships and an impetuous attack from the rear by a large force which had been landed for the purpose, the city capitulated, and as the citizens were unable to pay the large ransom exacted by Drake, a great portion of the place was burned. Many of the buildings, however, were so substantially constructed that their demolition was such a fatiguing duty that Drake at last accepted a ransom of twenty-five thousand ducats ($60,000) for the safety of what remained of the place.
A month later an attack was directed against the city of Carthagena, which, though bravely defended, was gallantly carried, and the governor, Alonzo Bravo, made prisoner. After the city had been held for a period of six weeks, during which time many of the houses were destroyed, a ransom of 11,000 ducats was accepted, and the English sailed away, glad to escape from the fearful pest of bilious fever which had made its appearance among the crew, and from which seven hundred men afterwards perished. The fatal ravages of this disease so discouraged Drake that after sailing along the coast of Florida and burning St. Helena and San Augustine, he returned to England, bringing 200 brass and 40 iron cannons and about $300,000 in prize money, $100,000 of which was divided among the men.
DESTRUCTION OF THE SPANISH ARMADA.
Drake's arrival in England was most fortuitous; for the Spanish Armada, of 134 ships, had just been fitted out for the purpose of invading England, and Elizabeth was in sore need of such an intrepid commander as Drake to resist the Spaniards. The merchants of London had fitted out twenty-six vessels of different sizes, to which the Queen added four ships of the royal squadron and with this considerable fleet Drake sailed for the harbor of Cadiz, where he had the good fortune to burn and destroy a very large amount of shipping which was to have been used for the threatened invasion. In addition to the injury which he thus did to the enemy, he destroyed a fleet sailing for the Azores, and brought back to England the richest prize that he had ever made, being several ships laden with provisions and treasure for Spain; in addition to this he burnt several other vessels, his depredations being such a serious blow to the Spaniards that they were forced to delay the threatened invasion by the Armada for one year.
On the 19th of July, 1586, the Armada came in sight of the English shores, when Drake and Fleming, the latter being lord high admiral, sailed out boldly and disputed with the Spanish fleet. A dreadful storm coming up, however, prevented the battle which would have followed, and while the English fleet was able to put back into port, the Spanish Armada was blown out to sea; and of the 134 ships which left the coast of Spain, all were destroyed but 53 which managed to return in a dismantled condition. This disaster practically ended the war between England and Spain, though it continued in a desultory manner for a considerable while, but was confined to reprisals on the high sea.
DEATH OF SIR JOHN HAWKINS.
In 1595 Sir John Hawkins accepted the services of Drake in an expedition to the West Indies. It was undertaken on a scale of magnitude and magnificence, which, it was thought, would at once crush the Spanish power in that quarter. The fleet consisted of six of the Queen's ships and twenty-one private vessels, with a crew of 2500 men and boys. The fleet, however, had scarcely put to sea when a dispute occurred between Hawkins and Drake, which occasioned great delay, and enabled the Spaniards to make preparations to receive the English, whose coming had been announced. This expedition was a failure from the beginning, for the Spaniards, having information of the approach of the enemy, set their forts in order, and so protected their galleons laden with treasure for Spain that the prime object of the English was in every case defeated. Sir John Hawkins was so chagrined by the several disappointments thus met with that he fell sick, and died on the 12th of November, while the fleet was before Porto Rico. He was succeeded by Sir Thomas Baskerville, who, in conjunction with Drake, opened the attack on Porto Rico; but on the very
DEATH OF DRAKE.
Being defeated in every effort and unable to give the enemy more than a trifling annoyance, and his health being greatly impaired, Drake advised the abandonment of the expedition and a return to England. Sir Thomas Baskervllle, who was in charge of the expedition, would not immediately consent to such withdrawal from Spanish territory, and undertook a passage of the Isthmus of Darien, with the intention of capturing Panama. But his force was harassed at every step by desultory firing from the Spaniards that lined the way, and suffering great privation and fatigue, as well as from a lack of provision, he returned to the ships entirely disheartened. But scarcely had they reached the ships when Drake, whose health had been failing for several months, was attacked by a flux under which he lingered for a period of three weeks, and expired on the 28th of January, 1596, just as the fleet had returned and lay off Porto Rico. His remains were placed in a leaden coffin and committed to the deep with all the pomp attending naval obsequies.
Unsuccessful as his latest enterprises had been, Drake's death was universally lamented by the nation. The tenderness of pity was now mingled with admiration for the genius and valor of this truly great man, whose memory will survive as long as the world lasts; for the value of his services to England is beyond computation.