THE FREEBOOTERS OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY by C.H. HARING

It was the French chronologist, Scaliger, who in thesixteenth century asserted, "nulli melius piraticamexercent quam Angli"; and although he had no needto cross the Channel to find men proficient in thisprimitive calling, the remark applies to the England ofhis time with a force which we to-day scarcely realise.Certainly the inveterate hostility with which the Englishmanlearned to regard the Spaniard in the latter half ofthe sixteenth and throughout the seventeenth centuriesfound its most remarkable expression in the exploits ofthe Elizabethan "sea-dogs" and of the buccaneers ofa later period. The religious differences and politicaljealousies which grew out of the turmoil of theReformation, and the moral anarchy incident to thedissolution of ancient religious institutions, were the{29}motive causes for an outburst of piratical activitycomparable only with the professional piracy of theBarbary States.
Even as far back as the thirteenth century, indeed,lawless sea-rovers, mostly Bretons and Flemings, hadinfested the English Channel and the seas about GreatBritain. In the sixteenth this mode of livelihoodbecame the refuge for numerous young Englishmen,Catholic and Protestant, who, fleeing from the persecutionsof Edward VI. and of Mary, sought refuge inFrench ports or in the recesses of the Irish coast, andbecame the leaders of wild roving bands living chieflyupon plunder. Among them during these persecutionswere found many men belonging to the best familiesin England, and although with the accession of Elizabethmost of the leaders returned to the service of the State,the pirate crews remained at their old trade. Thecontagion spread, especially in the western counties,and great numbers of fishermen who found their oldemployment profitless were recruited into this newcalling.37 At the beginning of Elizabeth's reign we findthese Anglo-Irish pirates venturing farther south,plundering treasure galleons off the coast of Spain, andcutting vessels out of the very ports of the Spanish king.Such outrages of course provoked reprisals, and thepirates, if caught, were sent to the galleys, rotted in thedungeons of the Inquisition, or, least of all, were burntin the plaza at Valladolid. These cruelties only addedfuel to a deadly hatred which was kindling between thetwo nations, a hatred which it took one hundred andfifty years to quench.
The most venturesome of these sea-rovers, however,{30}were soon attracted to a larger and more distant sphereof activity. Spain, as we have seen, was then endeavouringto reserve to herself in the western hemisphere anentire new world; and this at a time when the greatnorthern maritime powers, France, England and Holland,were in the full tide of economic development, restlesswith new thoughts, hopes and ambitions, and keenlyjealous of new commercial and industrial outlets. Thefamous Bull of Alexander VI. had provoked Francis I.to express a desire "to see the clause in Adam's willwhich entitled his brothers of Castile and Portugal todivide the New World between them," and very early theFrench corsairs had been encouraged to test the pretensionsof the Spaniards by the time-honoured proofs offire and steel. The English nation, however, in the firsthalf of the sixteenth century, had not disputed with Spainher exclusive trade and dominion in those regions. Thehardy mariners of the north were still indifferent to thewonders of a new continent awaiting their exploitation,and it was left to the Spaniards to unfold before the eyesof Europe the vast riches of America, and to foundempires on the plateaus of Mexico and beyond the Andes.During the reign of Philip II. all this was changed.English privateers began to extend their operationswestward, and to sap the very sources of Spanish wealthand power, while the wars which absorbed the attentionof the Spaniards in Europe, from the revolt of the LowCountries to the Treaty of Westphalia, left the field clearfor these ubiquitous sea-rovers. The maritime powers,although obliged by the theory of colonial exclusion topretend to acquiesce in the Spaniard's claim to tropicalAmerica, secretly protected and supported their marinerswho coursed those western seas. France and England{31}were now jealous and fearful of Spanish predominancein Europe, and kept eyes obstinately fixed on the inexhaustiblestreams of gold and silver by means of whichSpain was enabled to pay her armies and man her fleets.Queen Elizabeth, while she publicly excused or disavowedto Philip II. the outrages committed by Hawkins andDrake, blaming the turbulence of the times and promisingto do her utmost to suppress the disorders, was secretlyone of the principal shareholders in their enterprises.
The policy of the marauders was simple. The treasurewhich oiled the machinery of Spanish policy came fromthe Indies where it was accumulated; hence there wereonly two means of obtaining possession of it:—bold raidson the ill-protected American continent, and the captureof vessels en route.38 The counter policy of the Spaniardswas also two-fold:—on the one hand, the establishmentof commerce by means of annual fleets protected by apowerful convoy; on the other, the removal of the centresof population from the coasts to the interior of thecountry far from danger of attack.39 The Spaniards inAmerica, however, proved to be no match for the bold,intrepid mariners who disputed their supremacy. Thedescendants of the Conquistadores had deteriorated sadlyfrom the type of their forbears. Softened by tropicalheats and a crude, uncultured luxury, they seem to havelost initiative and power of resistance. The disastrous{32}commercial system of monopoly and centralization forcedthem to vegetate; while the policy of confining politicaloffice to native-born Spaniards denied any outlet tocreole talent and energy. Moreover, the productive powerand administrative abilities of the native-born Spaniardsthemselves were gradually being paralyzed and reducedto impotence under the crushing obligation of preservingand defending so unwieldy an empire and of managingsuch disproportionate riches, a task for which they hadneither the aptitude nor the means.40 Privateering in theWest Indies may indeed be regarded as a challenge tothe Spaniards of America, sunk in lethargy and livingupon the credit of past glory and achievement, a challengeto prove their right to retain their dominion and extendtheir civilization and culture over half the world.41
There were other motives which lay behind thesepiratical aggressions of the French and English in SpanishAmerica. The Spaniards, ever since the days of theDominican monk and bishop, Las Casas, had been reprobatedas the heartless oppressors and murderers ofthe native Indians. The original owners of the soil hadbeen dispossessed and reduced to slavery. In the WestIndies, the great islands, Cuba and Hispaniola, wererendered desolate for want of inhabitants. Two greatempires, Mexico and Peru, had been subdued by treachery,their kings murdered, and their people made to suffer a{33}living death in the mines of Potosi and New Spain.Such was the Protestant Englishman's conception, in thesixteenth century, of the results of Spanish colonial policy.To avenge the blood of these innocent victims, and teachthe true religion to the survivors, was to glorify the Churchmilitant and strike a blow at Antichrist. Spain, moreover,in the eyes of the Puritans, was the lieutenant ofRome, the Scarlet Woman of the Apocalypse, who harriedand burnt their Protestant brethren whenever she couldlay hands upon them. That she was eager to repeat herill-starred attempt of 1588 and introduce into the BritishIsles the accursed Inquisition was patent to everyone.Protestant England, therefore, filled with the enthusiasmand intolerance of a new faith, made no bones of despoilingthe Spaniards, especially as the service of God was likelyto be repaid with plunder.
A pamphlet written by Dalby Thomas in 1690 expresseswith tolerable accuracy the attitude of the averageEnglishman toward Spain during the previous century.He says:—"We will make a short reflection on theunaccountable negligence, or rather stupidity, of thisnation, during the reigns of Henry VII., Henry VIII.,Edward VI. and Queen Mary, who could contentedly sitstill and see the Spanish rifle, plunder and bring homeundisturbed, all the wealth of that golden world; and tosuffer them with forts and castles to shut up the doors andentrances unto all the rich provinces of America, havingnot the least title or pretence of right beyond any othernation; except that of being by accident the first discovererof some parts of it; where the unprecedentedcruelties, exorbitances and barbarities, their own historieswitness, they practised on a poor, naked and innocentpeople, which inhabited the islands, as well as upon those{34}truly civilized and mighty empires of Peru and Mexico,called to all mankind for succour and relief against theiroutrageous avarice and horrid massacres.... (We) slepton until the ambitious Spaniard, by that inexhaustiblespring of treasure, had corrupted most of the courts andsenates of Europe, and had set on fire, by civil broils anddiscords, all our neighbour nations, or had subdued themto his yoke; contriving too to make us wear his chainsand bear a share in the triumph of universal monarchy,not only projected but near accomplished, when QueenElizabeth came to the crown ... and to the dividedinterests of Philip II. and Queen Elizabeth, in personalmore than National concerns, we do owe that start of hersin letting loose upon him, and encouraging those daringadventurers, Drake, Hawkins, Rawleigh, the Lord Cliffordand many other braves that age produced, who, by theirprivateering and bold undertaking (like those thebuccaneers practise) now opened the way to our discoveries,and succeeding settlements in America."42
On the 19th of November 1527, some Spaniards in acaravel loading cassava at the Isle of Mona, betweenHispaniola and Porto Rico, sighted a strange vessel ofabout 250 tons well-armed with cannon, and believing itto be a ship from Spain sent a boat to make inquiries.The new-comers at the same time were seen to launch apinnace carrying some twenty-five men, all armed withcorselets and bows. As the two boats approached theSpaniards inquired the nationality of the strangers andwere told that they were English. The story given bythe English master was that his ship and another had{35}been fitted out by the King of England and had sailedfrom London to discover the land of the Great Khan;that they had been separated in a great storm; that thisship afterwards ran into a sea of ice, and unable to getthrough, turned south, touched at Bacallaos (Newfoundland),where the pilot was killed by Indians, and sailing400 leagues along the coast of "terra nueva" had foundher way to this island of Porto Rico. The Englishmenoffered to show their commission written in Latin andRomance, which the Spanish captain could not read; andafter sojourning at the island for two days, they inquiredfor the route to Hispaniola and sailed away. On theevening of 25th November this same vessel appearedbefore the port of San Domingo, the capital of Hispaniola,where the master with ten or twelve sailors went ashorein a boat to ask leave to enter and trade. This theyobtained, for the alguazil mayor and two pilots were sentback with them to bring the ship into port. But earlynext morning, when they approached the shore, theSpanish alcaide, Francisco de Tapia, commanded a gunto be fired at the ship from the castle; whereupon theEnglish, seeing the reception accorded them, sailed backto Porto Rico, there obtained some provisions in exchangefor pewter and cloth, and departed for Europe, "where itis believed that they never arrived, for nothing is knownof them." The alcaide, says Herrera, was imprisoned bythe oidores, because he did not, instead of driving theship away, allow her to enter the port, whence she couldnot have departed without the permission of the city andthe fort.43
{36}This is the earliest record we possess of the appearanceof an English ship in the waters of Spanish America.Others, however, soon followed. In 1530 WilliamHawkins, father of the famous John Hawkins, venturedin "a tall and goodly ship ... called the 'Polo ofPlymouth,'" down to the coast of Guinea, trafficked withthe natives for gold-dust and ivory, and then crossed theocean to Brazil, "where he behaved himself so wisely withthose savage people" that one of the kings of the countrytook ship with him to England and was presented toHenry VIII. at Whitehall.44 The real occasion, however,for the appearance of foreign ships in Spanish-Americanwaters was the new occupation of carrying negroes fromthe African coast to the Spanish colonies to be sold asslaves. The rapid depopulation of the Indies, and thereally serious concern of the Spanish crown for thepreservation of the indigenes, had compelled the Spanishgovernment to permit the introduction of negro slavesfrom an early period. At first restricted to Christianslaves carried from Spain, after 1510 licences to take overa certain number, subject of course to governmentalimposts, were given to private individuals; and inAugust 1518, owing to the incessant clamour of thecolonists for more negroes, Laurent de Gouvenot,Governor of Bresa and one of the foreign favourites of{37}Charles V., obtained the first regular contract to carry4000 slaves directly from Africa to the West Indies.45With slight modifications the contract system becamepermanent, and with it, as a natural consequence, camecontraband trade. Cargoes of negroes were frequently"run" from Africa by Spaniards and Portuguese, and asearly as 1506 an order was issued to expel all contrabandslaves from Hispaniola.46 The supply never equalled thedemand, however, and this explains why John Hawkinsfound it so profitable to carry ship-loads of blacksacross from the Guinea coast, and why Spanish colonistscould not resist the temptation to buy them, notwithstandingthe stringent laws against trading withforeigners.
The first voyage of John Hawkins was made in 1562-63.In conjunction with Thomas Hampton he fitted outthree vessels and sailed for Sierra Leone. There hecollected, "partly by the sword and partly by othermeans," some 300 negroes, and with this valuable humanfreight crossed the Atlantic to San Domingo inHispaniola. Uncertain as to his reception, Hawkins onhis arrival pretended that he had been driven in by foulweather, and was in need of provisions, but without readymoney to pay for them. He therefore requested permissionto sell "certain slaves he had with him." Theopportunity was eagerly welcomed by the planters, andthe governor, not thinking it necessary to construe hisorders from home too stringently, allowed two-thirds ofthe cargo to be sold. As neither Hawkins nor the Spanishcolonists anticipated any serious displeasure on the partof Philip II., the remaining 100 slaves were left as a{38}deposit with the Council of the island. Hawkins investedthe proceeds in a return cargo of hides, half of which hesent in Spanish vessels to Spain under the care of hispartner, while he returned with the rest to England.The Spanish Government, however, was not going tosanction for a moment the intrusion of the English intothe Indies. On Hampton's arrival at Cadiz his cargo wasconfiscated and he himself narrowly escaped the Inquisition.The slaves left in San Domingo were forfeited, andHawkins, although he "cursed, threatened and implored,"could not obtain a farthing for his lost hides and negroes.The only result of his demands was the dispatch of aperemptory order to the West Indies that no Englishvessel should be allowed under any pretext to tradethere.47
The second of the great Elizabethan sea-captains tobeard the Spanish lion was Hawkins' friend and pupil,Francis Drake. In 1567 he accompanied Hawkins onhis third expedition. With six ships, one of which waslent by the Queen herself, they sailed from Plymouth inOctober, picked up about 450 slaves on the Guinea coast,sighted Dominica in the West Indies in March, andcoasted along the mainland of South America pastMargarita and Cape de la Vela, carrying on a "tolerablegood trade." Rio de la Hacha they stormed with 200men, losing only two in the encounter; but they werescattered by a tempest near Cartagena and driven intothe Gulf of Mexico, where, on 16th September, theyentered the narrow port of S. Juan d'Ulloa or Vera Cruz.The next day the fleet of New Spain, consisting ofthirteen large ships, appeared outside, and after anexchange of pledges of peace and amity with the English{39}intruders, entered on the 20th. On the morning of the24th, however, a fierce encounter was begun, and Hawkinsand Drake, stubbornly defending themselves againsttremendous odds, were glad to escape with two shatteredvessels and the loss of £100,000 treasure. After a voyageof terrible suffering, Drake, in the "Judith," succeeded inreaching England on 20th January 1569, and Hawkinsfollowed five days later.48 Within a few years, however,Drake was away again, this time alone and with the sole,unblushing purpose of robbing the Dons. With only twoships and seventy-three men he prowled about the watersof the West Indies for almost a year, capturing andrifling Spanish vessels, plundering towns on the Mainand intercepting convoys of treasure across the Isthmusof Darien. In 1577 he sailed on the voyage whichcarried him round the world, a feat for which he wasknighted, promoted to the rank of admiral, and visited bythe Queen on board his ship, the "Golden Hind." WhileDrake was being feted in London as the hero of the hour,Philip of Spain from his cell in the Escorial must haveexecrated these English sea-rovers whose visits broughtruin to his colonies and menaced the safety of his treasuregalleons.
In the autumn of 1585 Drake was again in commandof a formidable armament intended against the WestIndies. Supported by 2000 troops under General Carleill,and by Martin Frobisher and Francis Knollys in the fleet,he took and plundered San Domingo, and after occupyingCartagena for six weeks ransomed the city for 110,000ducats. This fearless old Elizabethan sailed fromPlymouth on his last voyage in August 1595. Thoughunder the joint command of Drake and Hawkins, the{40}expedition seemed doomed to disaster throughout itscourse. One vessel, the "Francis," fell into the hands ofthe Spaniards. While the fleet was passing through theVirgin Isles, Hawkins fell ill and died. A desperateattack was made on S. Juan de Porto Rico, but theEnglish, after losing forty or fifty men, were compelled toretire. Drake then proceeded to the Main, where inturn he captured and plundered Rancherias, Rio de laHacha, Santa Marta and Nombre de Dios. With 750soldiers he made a bold attempt to cross the isthmusto the city of Panama, but turned back after the lossof eighty or ninety of his followers. A few days later,on 15th January 1596, he too fell ill, died on the28th, and was buried in a leaden coffin off the coast ofDarien.49
Hawkins and Drake, however, were by no means theonly English privateers of that century in Americanwaters. Names like Oxenham, Grenville, Raleigh andClifford, and others of lesser fame, such as Winter, Knollysand Barker, helped to swell the roll of these Elizabethansea-rovers. To many a gallant sailor the Caribbean Seawas a happy hunting-ground where he might indulge athis pleasure any propensities to lawless adventure. If in1588 he had helped to scatter the Invincible Armada, henow pillaged treasure ships on the coasts of the SpanishMain; if he had been with Drake to flout his CatholicMajesty at Cadiz, he now closed with the Spaniardswithin their distant cities beyond the seas. Thus he linedhis own pockets with Spanish doubloons, and incidentallycurbed Philip's power of invading England. Nor must wethink these mariners the same as the lawless buccaneersof a later period. The men of this generation were of a{41}sterner and more fanatical mould, men who for theirwildest acts often claimed the sanction of religious convictions.Whether they carried off the heathen fromAfrica, or plundered the fleets of Romish Spain, theywere but entering upon "the heritage of the saints."Judged by the standards of our own century they werepirates and freebooters, but in the eyes of their fellow-countrymentheir attacks upon the Spaniards seemed fairand honourable.
The last of the great privateering voyages for whichDrake had set the example was the armament whichLord George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, sent againstPorto Rico in 1598. The ill-starred expeditions of Raleighto Guiana in 1595 and again in 1617 belong rather tothe history of exploration and colonization. Clifford,"courtier, gambler and buccaneer," having run through agreat part of his very considerable fortune, had seized theopportunity offered him by the plunder of the Spanishcolonies to re-coup himself; and during a period of twelveyears, from 1586 to 1598, almost every year fitted out, andoften himself commanded, an expedition against theSpaniards. In his last and most ambitious effort, in 1598,he equipped twenty vessels entirely at his own cost, sailedfrom Plymouth in March, and on 6th June laid siege to thecity of San Juan, which he proposed to clear of Spaniardsand establish as an English stronghold. Although theplace was captured, the expedition proved a fiasco. Aviolent sickness broke out among the troops, and asClifford had already sailed away with some of the shipsto Flores to lie in wait for the treasure fleet, Sir ThomasBerkeley, who was left in command in Porto Rico,abandoned the island and returned to rejoin the Earl.50
{42}The English in the sixteenth century, however, had nomonopoly of this piratical game. The French did somethingin their own way, and the Dutch were not farbehind. Indeed, the French may claim to have set theexample for the Elizabethan freebooters, for in the firsthalf of the sixteenth century privateers flocked to theSpanish Indies from Dieppe, Brest and the towns of theBasque coast. The gleam of the golden lingots of Peru,and the pale lights of the emeralds from the mountains ofNew Granada, exercised a hypnotic influence not only onordinary seamen but on merchants and on seigneurs withdepleted fortunes. Names like Jean Terrier, Jacques Soreand François le Clerc, the latter popularly called "Pie dePalo," or "wooden-leg," by the Spaniards, were as detestablein Spanish ears as those of the great English captains.Even before 1500 French corsairs hovered about Cape StVincent and among the Azores and the Canaries; andtheir prowess and audacity were so feared that Columbus,on returning from his third voyage in 1498, declared thathe had sailed for the island of Madeira by a new route toavoid meeting a French fleet which was awaiting him nearSt Vincent.51 With the establishment of the system ofarmed convoys, however, and the presence of Spanishfleets on the coast of Europe, the corsairs suffered somepainful reverses which impelled them to transfer theiroperations to American waters. Thereafter Spanishrecords are full of references to attacks by Frenchmen onHavana, St. Jago de Cuba, San Domingo and towns on{43}the mainland of South and Central America; full ofappeals, too, from the colonies to the neglectful authoritiesin Spain, urging them to send artillery, cruisers andmunitions of war for their defence.52
A letter dated 8th April 1537, written by Gonzalo deGuzman to the Empress, furnishes us with some interestingdetails of the exploits of an anonymous French corsairin that year. In November 1536 this Frenchman hadseized in the port of Chagre, on the Isthmus of Darien, aSpanish vessel laden with horses from San Domingo, hadcast the cargo into the sea, put the crew on shore andsailed away with his prize. A month or two later heappeared off the coast of Havana and dropped anchor in asmall bay a few leagues from the city. As there werethen five Spanish ships lying in the harbour, the inhabitantscompelled the captains to attempt the seizure of thepirate, promising to pay for the ships if they were lost.Three vessels of 200 tons each sailed out to the attack, andfor several days they fired at the French corsair, which,being a patache of light draught, had run up the baybeyond their reach. Finally one morning the Frenchmenwere seen pressing with both sail and oar to escape fromthe port. A Spanish vessel cut her cables to follow inpursuit, but encountering a heavy sea and contrary windswas abandoned by her crew, who made for shore in boats.The other two Spanish ships were deserted in similarfashion, whereupon the French, observing this new turn ofaffairs, re-entered the bay and easily recovered the threedrifting vessels. Two of the prizes they burnt, andarming the third sailed away to cruise in the Florida{44}straits, in the route of ships returning from the West Indiesto Spain.53
The corsairs, however, were not always so uniformlysuccessful. A band of eighty, who attempted to plunderthe town of St. Jago de Cuba, were repulsed with someloss by a certain Diego Perez of Seville, captain of anarmed merchant ship then in the harbour, who laterpetitioned for the grant of a coat-of-arms in recognition ofhis services.54 In October 1544 six French vessels attackedthe town of Santa Maria de los Remedios, near Cape dela Vela, but failed to take it in face of the stubbornresistance of the inhabitants. Yet the latter a few monthsearlier had been unable to preserve their homes frompillage, and had been obliged to flee to La Granjeria delas Perlas on the Rio de la Hacha.55 There is smallwonder, indeed, that the defenders were so rarely victorious.The Spanish towns were ill-provided with forts andguns, and often entirely without ammunition or anyregular soldiers. The distance between the settlements asa rule was great, and the inhabitants, as soon as informedof the presence of the enemy, knowing that they had nomeans of resistance and little hope of succour, left theirhomes to the mercy of the freebooters and fled to the hillsand woods with their families and most precious belongings.Thus when, in October 1554, another band of three hundredFrench privateers swooped down upon the unfortunatetown of St. Jago de Cuba, they were able to hold it forthirty days, and plundered it to the value of 80,000 piecesof eight.56 The following year, however, witnessed an evenmore remarkable action. In July 1555 the celebrated{45}captain, Jacques Sore, landed two hundred men from acaravel a half-league from the city of Havana, and beforedaybreak marched on the town and forced the surrender ofthe castle. The Spanish governor had time to retire to thecountry, where he gathered a small force of Spaniards andnegroes, and returned to surprise the French by night.Fifteen or sixteen of the latter were killed, and Sore, whohimself was wounded, in a rage gave orders for themassacre of all the prisoners. He burned the cathedraland the hospital, pillaged the houses and razed most of thecity to the ground. After transferring all the artillery tohis vessel, he made several forays into the country, burneda few plantations, and finally sailed away in the beginningof August. No record remains of the amount of thebooty, but it must have been enormous. To fill the cup ofbitterness for the poor inhabitants, on 4th October thereappeared on the coast another French ship, which hadlearned of Sore's visit and of the helpless state of theSpaniards. Several hundred men disembarked, sacked afew plantations neglected by their predecessors, tore downor burned the houses which the Spaniards had begun torebuild, and seized a caravel loaded with leather whichhad recently entered the harbour.57 It is true that duringthese years there was almost constant war in Europebetween the Emperor and France; yet this does notentirely explain the activity of the French privateers inSpanish America, for we find them busy there in theyears when peace reigned at home. Once unleash thesea-dogs and it was extremely difficult to bring themagain under restraint.
With the seventeenth century began a new era in thehistory of the West Indies. If in the sixteenth the{46}English, French and Dutch came to tropical America aspiratical intruders into seas and countries which belongedto others, in the following century they came as permanentcolonisers and settlers. The Spaniards, who had exploredthe whole ring of the West Indian islands before 1500,from the beginning neglected the lesser for the largerAntilles—Cuba, Hispaniola, Porto Rico and Jamaica—andfor those islands like Trinidad, which lie close to themainland. And when in 1519 Cortez sailed from Cubafor the conquest of Mexico, and twelve years later Pizarroentered Peru, the emigrants who left Spain to seektheir fortunes in the New World flocked to the vastterritories which the Conquistadores and their lieutenantshad subdued on the Continent. It was consequently tothe smaller islands which compose the Leeward andWindward groups that the English, French and Dutchfirst resorted as colonists. Small, and therefore "easyto settle, easy to depopulate and to re-people, attractivenot only on account of their own wealth, but also asa starting-point for the vast and rich continent offwhich they lie," these islands became the pawns in agame of diplomacy and colonization which continued for150 years.
In the seventeenth century, moreover, the Spanishmonarchy was declining rapidly both in power andprestige, and its empire, though still formidable, no longerovershadowed the other nations of Europe as in the daysof Charles V. and Philip II. France, with the Bourbonson the throne, was entering upon an era of rapid expansionat home and abroad, while the Dutch, by the truce of 1609,virtually obtained the freedom for which they had struggledso long. In England Queen Elizabeth had died in 1603,and her Stuart successor exchanged her policy of dalliance,{47}of balance between France and Spain, for one of peaceand conciliation. The aristocratic free-booters who hadenriched themselves by harassing the Spanish Indies weresucceeded by a less romantic but more business-likegeneration, which devoted itself to trade and planting.Abortive attempts at colonization had been made in thesixteenth century. The Dutch, who were trading in theWest Indies as early as 1542, by 1580 seem to have gainedsome foothold in Guiana;58 and the French Huguenots,under the patronage of the Admiral de Coligny, madethree unsuccessful efforts to form settlements on theAmerican continent, one in Brazil in 1555, another nearPort Royal in South Carolina in 1562, and two years latera third on the St. John's River in Florida. The onlyEnglish effort in the sixteenth century was the vainattempt of Sir Walter Raleigh between 1585 and 1590 toplant a colony on Roanoke Island, on the coast of whatis now North Carolina. It was not till 1607 that thefirst permanent English settlement in America was madeat Jamestown in Virginia. Between 1609 and 1619numerous stations were established by English, Dutch andFrench in Guiana between the mouth of the Orinoco andthat of the Amazon. In 1621 the Dutch West IndiaCompany was incorporated, and a few years later proposalsfor a similar company were broached in England. Amongthe West Indian Islands, St. Kitts received its first Englishsettlers in 1623; and two years later the island wasformally divided with the French, thus becoming theearliest nucleus of English and French colonization inthose regions. Barbadoes was colonized in 1624-25. In1628 English settlers from St. Kitts spread to Nevis and{48}Barbuda, and within another four years to Antigua andMontserrat; while as early as 1625 English and Dutchtook joint possession of Santa Cruz. The founders of theFrench settlement on St. Kitts induced Richelieu to incorporatea French West India Company with the title, "TheCompany of the Isles of America," and under its auspicesGuadeloupe, Martinique and other islands of the Windwardgroup were colonized in 1635 and succeedingyears. Meanwhile between 1632 and 1634 the Dutchhad established trading stations on St. Eustatius in thenorth, and on Tobago and Curaçao in the south nearthe Spanish mainland.
While these centres of trade and population were beingformed in the very heart of the Spanish seas, the privateerswere not altogether idle. To the treaty of Vervins betweenFrance and Spain in 1598 had been added a secret restrictivearticle whereby it was agreed that the peaceshould not hold good south of the Tropic of Cancer andwest of the meridian of the Azores. Beyond these twolines (called "les lignes de l'enclos des Amitiés") Frenchand Spanish ships might attack each other and take fairprize as in open war. The ministers of Henry IV. communicatedthis restriction verbally to the merchants ofthe ports, and soon private men-of-war from Dieppe,Havre and St. Malo flocked to the western seas.59 Shipsloaded with contraband goods no longer sailed for theIndies unless armed ready to engage all comers, andmany ship-captains renounced trade altogether for themore profitable and exciting occupation of privateering.In the early years of the seventeenth century, moreover,Dutch fleets harassed the coasts of Chile and Peru,60 while{49}in Brazil61 and the West Indies a second "Pie de Palo,"this time the Dutch admiral, Piet Heyn, was proving ascourge to the Spaniards. Heyn was employed by theDutch West India Company, which from the year1623 onwards, carried the Spanish war into the transmarinepossessions of Spain and Portugal. With a fleetcomposed of twenty-six ships and 3300 men, of whichhe was vice-admiral, he greatly distinguished himself atthe capture of Bahia, the seat of Portuguese power inBrazil. Similar expeditions were sent out annually, andbrought back the rich spoils of the South Americancolonies. Within two years the extraordinary number ofeighty ships, with 1500 cannon and over 9000 sailors andsoldiers, were despatched to American seas, and althoughBahia was soon retaken, the Dutch for a time occupiedPernambuco, as well as San Juan de Porto Rico in theWest Indies.62 In 1628 Piet Heyn was in command of asquadron designed to intercept the plate fleet which sailedevery year from Vera Cruz to Spain. With thirty-oneships, 700 cannon and nearly 3000 men he cruised alongthe northern coast of Cuba, and on 8th September fell inwith his quarry near Cape San Antonio. The Spaniardsmade a running fight along the coast until they reachedthe Matanzas River near Havana, into which they turnedwith the object of running the great-bellied galleonsaground and escaping with what treasure they could.The Dutch followed, however, and most of the rich cargowas diverted into the coffers of the Dutch West IndiaCompany. The gold, silver, indigo, sugar and logwoodwere sold in the Netherlands for fifteen million guilders,{50}and the company was enabled to distribute to its shareholdersthe unprecedented dividend of 50 per cent. Itwas an exploit which two generations of English marinershad attempted in vain, and the unfortunate Spanish general,Don Juan de Benavides, on his return to Spain wasimprisoned for his defeat and later beheaded.63
In 1639 we find the Spanish Council of War for theIndies conferring with the King on measures to be takenagainst English piratical ships in the Caribbean;64 and in1642 Captain William Jackson, provided with an amplecommission from the Earl of Warwick65 and duplicatesunder the Great Seal, made a raid in which he emulatedthe exploits of Sir Francis Drake and his contemporaries.Starting out with three ships and about 1100 men, mostlypicked up in St. Kitts and Barbadoes, he cruised along theMain from Caracas to Honduras and plundered thetowns of Maracaibo and Truxillo. On 25th March 1643he dropped anchor in what is now Kingston Harbour inJamaica, landed about 500 men, and after some sharpfighting and the loss of forty of his followers, entered thetown of St. Jago de la Vega, which he ransomed for 200beeves, 10,000 lbs. of cassava bread and 7000 pieces ofeight. Many of the English were so captivated by thebeauty and fertility of the island that twenty-three desertedin one night to the Spaniards.66
The first two Stuart Kings, like the great Queenwho preceded them, and in spite of the presence of a{51}powerful Spanish faction at the English Court, lookedupon the Indies with envious eyes, as a source ofperennial wealth to whichever nation could secure them.James I., to be sure, was a man of peace, and soonafter his accession patched up a treaty with the Spaniards;but he had no intention of giving up any Englishclaims, however shadowy they might be, to America.Cornwallis, the new ambassador at Madrid, from avantage ground where he could easily see the financialand administrative confusion into which Spain, in spiteof her colonial wealth, had fallen, was most dissatisfiedwith the treaty. In a letter to Cranborne, dated 2ndJuly 1605, he suggested that England never lost sogreat an opportunity of winning honour and wealth as byrelinquishing the war with Spain, and that Philip andhis kingdom "were reduced to such a state as theycould not in all likelihood have endured for the spaceof two years more."67 This opinion we find repeatedin his letters in the following years, with covert hintsthat an attack upon the Indies might after all be themost profitable and politic thing to do. When, inOctober 1607, Zuniga, the Spanish ambassador inLondon, complained to James of the establishment ofthe new colony in Virginia, James replied that Virginiawas land discovered by the English and therefore notwithin the jurisdiction of Philip; and a week laterSalisbury, while confiding to Zuniga that he thoughtthe English might not justly go to Virginia, stillrefused to prohibit their going or command their return,for it would be an acknowledgment, he said, thatthe King of Spain was lord of all the Indies.68 In 1609,{52}in the truce concluded between Spain and the Netherlands,one of the stipulations provided that for nineyears the Dutch were to be free to trade in all placesin the East and West Indies except those in actualpossession of the Spaniards on the date of cessation ofhostilities; and thereafter the English and Frenchgovernments endeavoured with all the more persistenceto obtain a similar privilege. Attorney-General Heath,in 1625, presented a memorial to the Crown on theadvantages derived by the Spaniards and Dutch in theWest Indies, maintaining that it was neither safe norprofitable for them to be absolute lords of those regions;and he suggested that his Majesty openly interpose orpermit it to be done underhand.69 In September 1637proposals were renewed in England for a West IndiaCompany as the only method of obtaining a share inthe wealth of America. It was suggested that someconvenient port be seized as a safe retreat from whichto plunder Spanish trade on land and sea, and thatthe officers of the company be empowered to conquerand occupy any part of the West Indies, build ships,levy soldiers and munitions of war, and make reprisals.70The temper of Englishmen at this time was againillustrated in 1640 when the Spanish ambassador, Alonzode Cardenas, protested to Charles I. against certainships which the Earls of Warwick and Marlboroughwere sending to the West Indies with the intention,Cardenas declared, of committing hostilities against theSpaniards. The Earl of Warwick, it seems, pretendedto have received great injuries from the latter andthreatened to recoup his losses at their expense. Heprocured from the king a broad commission which gave{53}him the right to trade in the West Indies, and to"offend" such as opposed him. Under shelter of thiscommission the Earl of Marlborough was now goingto sea with three or four armed ships, and Cardenasprayed the king to restrain him until he gave securitynot to commit any acts of violence against the Spanishnation. The petition was referred to a committee ofthe Lords, who concluded that as the peace had neverbeen strictly observed by either nation in the Indiesthey would not demand any security of the Earl."Whether the Spaniards will think this reasonable ornot," concludes Secretary Windebank in his letter to SirArthur Hopton, "is no great matter."71
During this century and a half between 1500 and1650, the Spaniards were by no means passive or indifferentto the attacks made upon their authority andprestige in the New World. The hostility of themariners from the north they repaid with interest, andwoe to the foreign interloper or privateer who fell intotheir clutches. When Henry II. of France in 1557issued an order that Spanish prisoners be condemnedto the galleys, the Spanish government retaliated bycommanding its sea-captains to mete out the same treatmentto their French captives, except that captains,masters and officers taken in the navigation of theIndies were to be hung or cast into the sea.72 InDecember 1600 the governor of Cumana had suggestedto the King, as a means of keeping Dutch and Englishships from the salt mines of Araya, the ingenious schemeof poisoning the salt. This advice, it seems, was notfollowed, but a few years later, in 1605, a Spanish fleet{54}of fourteen galleons sent from Lisbon surprised andburnt nineteen Dutch vessels found loading salt atAraya, and murdered most of the prisoners.73 InDecember 1604 the Venetian ambassador in Londonwrote of "news that the Spanish in the West Indiescaptured two English vessels, cut off the hands, feet,noses and ears of the crews and smeared them withhoney and tied them to trees to be tortured by fliesand other insects. The Spanish here plead," he continued,"that they were pirates, not merchants, andthat they did not know of the peace. But the barbaritymakes people here cry out."74 On 22nd June 1606,Edmondes, the English Ambassador at Brussels, in aletter to Cornwallis, speaks of a London ship whichwas sent to trade in Virginia, and putting into a river inFlorida to obtain water, was surprised there by Spanishvessels from Havana, the men ill-treated and the cargoconfiscated.75 And it was but shortly after that CaptainChaloner's ship on its way to Virginia was seized by theSpaniards in the West Indies, and the crew sent to languishin the dungeons of Seville or condemned to the galleys.
By attacks upon some of the English settlements, too,the Spaniards gave their threats a more effective form.Frequent raids were made upon the English and Dutchplantations in Guiana;76 and on 8th-18th September 1629 aSpanish fleet of over thirty sail, commanded by DonFederico de Toledo, nearly annihilated the joint Frenchand English colony on St. Kitts. Nine English shipswere captured and the settlements burnt. The Frenchinhabitants temporarily evacuated the island and sailed{55}for Antigua; but of the English some 550 were carriedto Cartagena and Havana, whence they were shipped toEngland, and all the rest fled to the mountains andwoods.77 Within three months' time, however, after thedeparture of the Spaniards, the scattered settlers hadreturned and re-established the colony. Providence Islandand its neighbour, Henrietta, being situated near theMosquito Coast, were peculiarly exposed to Spanishattack;78 while near the north shore of Hispaniola theisland of Tortuga, which was colonized by the sameEnglish company, suffered repeatedly from the assaultsof its hostile neighbours. In July 1635 a Spanish fleetfrom the Main assailed the island of Providence, but unableto land among the rocks, was after five days beatenoff "considerably torn" by the shot from the fort.79 Onthe strength of these injuries received and of others anticipated,the Providence Company obtained from the kingthe liberty "to right themselves" by making reprisals, andduring the next six years kept numerous vessels preyingupon Spanish commerce in those waters. King Philipwas therefore all the more intent upon destroying theplantation.80 He bided his time, however, until the earlysummer of 1641, when the general of the galleons, DonFrancisco Diaz Pimienta, with twelve sail and 2000 men,fell upon the colony, razed the forts and carried off all theEnglish, about 770 in number, together with forty cannon andhalf a million of plunder.81 It was just ten years later that a{56}force of 800 men from Porto Rico invaded Santa Cruz, whencethe Dutch had been expelled by the English in 1646, killedthe English governor and more than 100 settlers, seizedtwo ships in the harbour and burnt and pillaged most ofthe plantations. The rest of the inhabitants escaped tothe woods, and after the departure of the Spaniardsdeserted the colony for St. Kitts and other islands.82 



Footnote 37: (return)Froude: History of England, viii. p. 436 ff.
Footnote 38: (return)1585, August 12th. Ralph Lane to Sir Philip Sidney. Port Ferdinando,Virginia.—He has discovered the infinite riches of St. John (Porto Rico?) andHispaniola by dwelling on the islands five weeks. He thinks that if the Queenfinds herself burdened with the King of Spain, to attempt them would be mosthonourable, feasible and profitable. He exhorts him not to refuse this goodopportunity of rendering so great a service to the Church of Christ. Thestrength of the Spaniards doth altogether grow from the mines of her treasure.Extract, C.S.P. Colon., 1574-1660.
Footnote 39: (return)Scelle, op. cit., ii. p. xiii.
Footnote 40: (return) Scelle, op. cit., i. p. ix.
Footnote 41: (return)1611, February 28. Sir Thos. Roe to Salisbury. Port d'Espaigne,Trinidad.—He has seen more of the coast from the River Amazon to theOrinoco than any other Englishman alive. The Spaniards here are proudand insolent, yet needy and weak, their force is reputation, their safety isopinion. The Spaniards treat the English worse than Moors. The governmentis lazy and has more skill in planting and selling tobacco than in erectingcolonies and marching armies. Extract, C.S.P. Colon., 1574-1660. (Roe wassent by Prince Henry upon a voyage of discovery to the Indies.)
Footnote 42: (return)"An historical account of the rise and growth of the West IndiaColonies." By Dalby Thomas, Lond., 1690. (Harl. Miscell., 1808, ii.357.)
Footnote 43: (return)Oviedo: Historia general de las Indias, lib. xix. cap. xiii.;Coleccion de documentos ... de ultramar, tom. iv. p. 57 (deposition ofthe Spanish captain at the Isle of Mona); Pacheco, etc.: Coleccion dedocumentos ... de las posesiones espanoles en America y Oceania, tom.xl. p. 305 (cross-examination of witnesses by officers of the Royal Audienciain San Domingo just after the visit of the English ship to that place); EnglishHistorical Review, XX. p. 115.
The ship is identified with the "Samson" dispatched by Henry VIII. in1527 "with divers cunning men to seek strange regions," which sailed fromthe Thames on 20th May in company with the "Mary of Guildford," was lostby her consort in a storm on the night of 1st July, and was believed to havefoundered with all on board. (Ibid.)
Footnote 44: (return)Hakluyt, ed. 1600, iii. p. 700; Froude, op.cit., viii. p. 427.
Footnote 45: (return)Scelle., op. cit., i. pp. 123-25, 139-61.
Footnote 46: (return)Colecc. de doc. ... de ultramar. tom. vi. p. 15.
Footnote 47: (return)Froude, op. cit., viii. pp. 470-72.
Footnote 48: (return)Corbett: Drake and the Tudor Navy, i. ch. 3.
Footnote 49: (return)Corbett: Drake and the Tudor Navy, ii. chs. 1, 2, 11.
Footnote 50: (return)Corbett: The Successors of Drake, ch. x.
Footnote 51: (return)Marcel: Les corsaires français au XVIe siècle, p. 7. As early as 1501 aroyal ordinance in Spain prescribed the construction of carracks to pursue theprivateers, and in 1513 royal cedulas were sent to the officials of the Casa deContratacion ordering them to send two caravels to guard the coasts of Cubaand protect Spanish navigation from the assaults of French corsairs. (Ibid.,p. 8).
Footnote 52: (return)Colecc. de doc. ... de ultramar, tomos i., iv., vi.; Ducéré: Lescorsaires sous l'ancien régime. Append. II.; Duro., op. cit., i. Append.XIV.
Footnote 53: (return)Colecc. de doc. ... de ultramar, tom. vi. p. 22.
Footnote 54: (return)Ibid., p. 23.
Footnote 55: (return)Marcel, op. cit., p. 16.
Footnote 56: (return)Colecc. de doc. ... de ultramar, tom. vi. p. 360.
Footnote 57: (return)Colecc. de doc. ... de ultramar, tom. vi. p. 360.
Footnote 58: (return)Lucas: A Historical Geography of the British Colonies, vol. ii.pp. 37, 50.
Footnote 59: (return)Weiss, op. cit., ii. p. 292.
Footnote 60: (return)Duro, op. cit., iii. ch. xvi.; iv. chs. iii., viii.
Footnote 61: (return)Portugal between 1581 and 1640 was subject to the Crown of Spain, andBrazil, a Portuguese colony, was consequently within the pale of Spanishinfluence and administration.
Footnote 62: (return)Blok: History of the People of the Netherlands, iv. p. 36.
Footnote 63: (return)Blok: History of the People of the Netherlands, iv. p. 37; Duro, op.cit., iv. p. 99; Gage, ed. 1655, p. 80.
Footnote 64: (return)Brit. Mus., Add. MSS., 36,325, No. 10.
Footnote 65: (return)Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick, was created admiral of the fleet by orderof Parliament in March 1642, and although removed by Charles I. was reinstatedby Parliament on 1st July.
Footnote 66: (return)Brit. Mus., Sloane MSS., 793 or 894; Add. MSS., 36,327, No. 9.
Footnote 67: (return)Winwood Papers, ii. pp. 75-77.
Footnote 68: (return)Brown: Genesis of the United States, i. pp. 120-25, 172.
Footnote 69: (return)C.S.P. Colon., 1574-1660.
Footnote 70: (return)C.S.P. Colon., 1574-1660.
Footnote 71: (return)Clarendon State Papers, ii. p. 87; Rymer: Fœdera, xx. p. 416.
Footnote 72: (return) Duro, op. cit., ii. p. 462.
Footnote 73: (return)Duro, op. cit., iii. pp. 236-37.
Footnote 74: (return)C.S.P. Venet., 1603-07, p. 199.
Footnote 75: (return)Winwood Papers, ii. p. 233.
Footnote 76: (return)Brit. Mus., Add. MSS., 36,319, No. 7; 36,320, No. 8; 36,321, No.24; 36,322, No. 23.
Footnote 77: (return)C.S.P. Colon., 1574-1660:—1629, 5th and 30th Nov.; 1630, 29th July.
Footnote 78: (return)Gage saw at Cartagena about a dozen English prisoners captured by theSpaniards at sea, and belonging to the settlement on Providence Island.
Footnote 79: (return)C.S.P. Colon., 1574-1660:—1635, 19th March; 1636, 26th March.
Footnote 80: (return)Brit. Mus., Add. MSS., 36,323, No. 10.
Footnote 81: (return)Duro, Tomo., iv. p. 339; cf. also in Bodleian Library:—"A letterwritten upon occasion in the Low Countries, etc. Whereunto is added avisosfrom several places, of the taking of the Island of Providence, by the Spaniardsfrom the English. London. Printed for Nath. Butter, Mar. 22, 1641.
"I have letter by an aviso from Cartagena, dated the 14th of September,wherein they advise that the galleons were ready laden with the silver, andwould depart thence the 6th of October. The general of the galleons, namedFrancisco Dias Pimienta, had beene formerly in the moneth of July withabove 3000 men, and the least of his ships, in the island of S. Catalina, wherehe had taken and carried away with all the English, and razed the forts,wherein they found 600 negroes, much gold and indigo, so that the prize isesteemed worth above halfe a million."
Footnote 82: (return)Rawl. MSS., A. 32,297; 31, 121.

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