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EXPEDITION OF HAWKINS TO THE WEST INDIES.
The parentage and early life of Francis Drake-His sea-education-Voyage to the West Indies with his friend Captain John Hawkins-Treachery of the Spaniards and disasters in that voyage.
It is the peculiar advantage of a British-born subject, that lowness of birth alone is no absolute bar nor disqualification for the attainment of wealth and honours; and the impediments, that are thrown in the way of advancement, are not of such a nature but may be overcome by steady good conduct, honest zeal, activity, perseverance, and, above all, by a determined resolution to surmount difficulties, and stand up manfully against misfortune; resolution being, as Dr. Johnson says, success. Of the happy effects of such conduct the life of Sir Francis Drake affords a striking and memorable example.
“This Drake,” says Camden, " (to relate no more than what I have heard from himself) was born of mean parentage in Devonshire, and had
Francis Russell (afterwards Earl of Bedford) for his godfather, who, according to the custom, gave him his Christian name. Whilst he was yet a child, his father, embracing the Protestant doctrine, was called in question by the law of the Six Articles made by Henry VIII. against the Protestants, fled his country, and withdrew himself into Kent'*" for," says Prince, "the sting of Popery still remained in England, though the teeth thereof were knocked out, and the Pope's supremacy abolished."+
In the dedication, "To the courteous Reader," of the relation of the Voyage Revived,' by Sir Francis Drake (the nephew), he gives some information of the family. "Honest reader, without apologie, I desire thee in this insuing discourse to observe with me the power and justice of the Lord of Hostes, who could enable so meane a person to right himself upon so mighty a prince, together with the goodness and providence of God, very observable, in that it pleased him to raise this man, not only from a low condition, but even from the state of persecution; his father suffered in it, being forced to fly from his house (neere South Tavistocke in Devon) into Kent, and there to inhabit in the hull of a shippe, wherein many of his younger sonnes were born; hee had twelve in all, and as it pleased God to give most of them a being † Prince's Worthies of Devon.
upon the water, so the greatest part of them dyed at sea; the youngest, though he were as far as any, yet dyed at home, whose posterity inherits that which by himself, and this noble gentleman the eldest brother, was hardly, yet worthily gotten."
"After the death of King Henry," continues Camden, "he (the father) got a place among the seamen in the King's Navy, to read King's Navy, to read prayers to them; and soon after he was ordained Deacon, and made Vicar of the Church of Upnore upon the river Medway, (the road where the fleet usually anchoreth). But by reason of his poverty he put his son to the master of a bark, with which he used to coast along the shore, and sometimes to carry merchandise into Zeland and France.
"The youth, being painful and diligent, so pleased the old man by his industry, that, being a bachelor, at his death he bequeathed his bark unto him by will and testament."*
This honourable reward of his service is, as Dr. Johnson observes, "a circumstance that deserves to be remembered, not only as it may illustrate the private character of this brave man, but as it may hint to all those who may hereafter propose his conduct for their imitation, that virtue is the surest foundation both of reputation and fortune, and that the first step to greatness is to be honest."† The simple account given by Drake to Camden
↑ Johnson's Works.
might be supposed to settle the question as to his parentage, coming as it does directly from himself, and recorded by one of the ablest and most faithful of our old historians: it sets aside the story of his father Edmund being merely a sailor; and the account that, when he retired into Kent, he inhabited the hull of a ship, in which several of the younger of his twelve sons were born, has been confirmed by his grandson Sir Francis Drake.
What indeed could a sailor have to do with the Six Articles, to make it necessary for him to fly from his country? He was more probably one who, in those days, bore the title of Preacher or Minister, who had received holy orders, but was without church preferment, and engaged in giving instruction to the neighbouring people, and reading prayers to them. Be that as it Be that as it may, he must have been a well-educated man, if it be true that he was ordained Deacon, and then, as is said, was inducted to the vicarage of Upnore, on the river Medway. At any rate, it can scarcely be supposed that such a man, giving instruction to others, would neglect the education of his own twelve sons. We shall see, in the course of this memoir, abundant proofif good sense, correct expression, and sound argument will be admitted as proof-that Sir Francis Drake was a man of superior education, and that two or three of his brothers, who partook of his adventures, were by no means deficient.