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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Caused by Francis Drake and his privateers


going on a long while, arising

at first from the privateering which filled the whole of the Western Ocean. The English traders held it to be their right to avenge every injustice done them on their neighbours' coasts--for man has, they said, a natural desire of procuring himself satisfaction--and so turned themselves into freebooters. Through the counter operations of the Spaniards this private naval war became more and more extensive, and then also gradually developed more glorious impulses, as we see in Francis Drake, who at first only took part in the mere privateering of injured traders, and afterwards rose to the idea of a maritime rivalry between the nations. It was an important moment in the history of the world when Drake on the isthmus of Panama first caught sight of the Pacific, and prayed God for His grace that he might sail over this sea some day in an English ship--a grace since granted not merely to himself but also in the richest measure to his nation. Many companies were formed to resume the voyages of discovery already once begun and then again discontinued. And as the Spaniards based their exclusive right to the possession of the other hemisphere on the Pope's decision, Protestant ideas, which mocked at this supremacy of the Romish See over the world, now contributed also to impel men to occupy lands in these regions. This was always effected in the main by voluntary efforts of wealthy mercantile houses, or enterprising members of the court and state, to whom the Queen gave patents of authorisation.
In this way Walter Ralegh, in his political and religious opposition to the Spaniards, founded an English colony on the transatlantic continent, in Wingandacoa: the Queen was so much pleased at it that she gave the district a name which was to preserve the remembrance of the quality she was perhaps proudest of: she called it Virginia.[266]

But at last she formally undertook the naval war; it was at the same time a motive for the league with the Hollanders, who could do excellent service in it: by attacking the West Indies she hoped to destroy the basis of the Spanish greatness.

Francis Drake was commissioned to open the war. When, in October 1585, he reached the Islas de Bayona on the Gallician coast, he informed the governor, Don Pedro Bermudez, that he came in his Queen's name to put an end to the grievances which the English had had to suffer from the Spaniards. Don Pedro answered, he knew nothing of any such grievances: but, if Drake wished to begin war, he was ready to meet him.

Francis Drake then directed his course at once to the West Indies. He surprised St. Domingo and Carthagena, occupied both one and the other for a short time, and levied heavy contributions on them. Then he brought back to England the colonists from Virginia, who were not yet able to hold their own against the natives. The next year he inflicted still more damage on the Spaniards. He made his way into the harbour of Cadiz, which was full of vessels that had either come from both the Indies or were proceeding thither: he sank or burnt them all. His privateers covered the sea.

Often already had the Spaniards planned an invasion of England. The most pressing motive of all lay in these maritime enterprises. The Spaniards remarked that the stability and power of their monarchy did not rest so much on the strong places they possessed in all parts of the world as on the moveable instruments of dominion by which the connexion with them was kept up; the interruption of the communication, caused by Francis Drake and his privateers, between just the most important points on the Spanish and the Netherlandish coasts, seemed to them unendurable: they desired to rid themselves of it at any price. And to this was now added the general cry of vengeance for the execution of the Queen of Scots, which was heard from the pulpit in the presence of the King himself. But this was not the only result of that event. The life of Queen Mary and her claim to the succession had always stood in the way of Spanish ambition: now Philip II could think of taking possession of the English throne himself. He concluded a treaty with Pope Sixtus V, under which he was to hold the crown of England as a fief of the Holy See, which would thus, and by the re-establishment of the Church's authority, have also attained to the revival of its old feudal supremacy over England.[267]


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