SIR JOHN HAWKINS ['Achines' the Spanish called him] (1532-1595), merchant, ship-owner, ship-builder, naval commander, naval administrator, was born at Plymouth in 1532 and died at sea on 12 November 1595. He was the second son of William Hawkins (the first): he was twice married, first to Katherine Gonson, daughter of Benjamin Gonson, Treasurer of the Navy (1559), and secondly to Margaret Vaughan. By his first marriage he had one son, Richard, later Sir Richard Hawkins.
When he was about twenty he killed a barber of Plymouth named White, but he was judged by the coroner to have struck White 'because he could not avoid him'. John was about twenty-one when his father died, leaving his brother William head of the family. John and William went into partnership and worked together until probably 1560, when the business was wound up. After that the two brothers worked separately, but each invested in the ventures of the other. John certainly spent a good deal of time at sea, voyaging principally to the Canary Islands: as certainly he was by 1560 a wealthy man, for when the partnership was broken, his share of the capital was £10,000 - a very large sum in those days. He was also a man of importance, for in 1556 he became a freeman of Plymouth. In the course of his travels to the Canaries he had learned the possibilities of trading slaves between the Guinea coast of Africa and the Spanish possession in the West Indies. In 1559 or 1560 he left Plymouth and went to live in London, there the more conveniently to further this new opening in trade.
The Slave-trading Voyages
The first slave-trading voyage, 1562. A syndicate was formed which included John's father-in-law, Benjamin Gonson, and Sir William Wynter, Surveyor of the Navy and Master of the Ordnance. This was intended to be a comparatively small expedition to gain experience. Hawkins sailed from Plymouth in October with the Salomon, the Swallow and the Jonas, and possible with a fourth vessel. He picked up a pilot at Teneriffe and made for the Guinea coast. Here he secured about 400 Negro slaves and chartered a Portuguese ship in which to transport the slaves. A Spanish friend had already ascertained that his presence and his cargo would be welcome in Hispaniola, although officially the Indies were forbidden to trade with foreigners. In April 1563 Hawkins arrived at the small ports on the north coast of the island - San Domingo was too public a place for him to sell his goods there. At Isabella, Puerto de Plata and Monte Christi he disposed of his English merchandise and his slaves, either in exchange for a little gold, a little sugar and a large lading of hides, or else for bills drawn upon Seville, since coined money was scarce in the Indies. He paid the normal customs dues in slaves, chartered a vessel from a Spaniard named Martinez, put Thomas Hampton in command of it and sent him off to Seville with part of the new cargo. He sent the Portuguese ship to Seville under its Portuguese captain and crew. From these actions it is possible to think that Hawkins felt assured that all he had done would be acceptable to the Spanish authorities in Spain and the Portuguese in Portugal. At Seville Hampton's cargo was seized by the Spanish; the Portuguese captain sailed his ship, not to Seville, but to Lisbon, where the cargo was impounded by the Portuguese Guinea traders. Hawkins arrived at Plymouth in August 1563, bringing with him by far the more important results of his trading with the Indies. When he heard what had happened at Seville, he went straight to London to enlist the sympathies of the government on his side against Spain.
On this first voyage Hawkins had, deliberately and openly, broken the three great rules governing trade in the Spanish Indies. He had gone there without a licence to do so: he had traded without a licence: he had carried goods which had not previously been declared to Seville. He must have known the rules perfectly well. It is evident that Hawkins expected to get preferential treatment and that he was making this voyage into a test case. We do not know why he should have expected this, but it is possible that the answer lies in a curious episode when Queen Mary was on the throne. Hawkins was in Plymouth when the negotiations for the Spanish marriage were going on: some of the Spanish emissaries traveled through Plymouth and used the services of Hawkins and his brother. When Philip came to England in 1555 to marry Mary, one Spanish record avers that he knighted Hawkins. This is possibly not true, as we know that Hawkins was knighted during the fight against the Armada. But we also know that Hawkins often spoke of Philip II as 'my old master': the word servant in that context meant something more than merely subject. Is it not likely that Hawkins had done some special service for Philip II which led him to think that Philip would give him privileged treatment in trading with the Spanish West Indies? If so, John Hawkins got his answer: he reckoned that he lost in Seville and Lisbon £20,000. Even so, the voyage paid a handsome dividend.
The second slave-trading voyage, 1564. This was a much more important business than the first, for it had political as well as trading objectives.
The syndicate for the first voyage was now joined by three Privy Councillors, Cecil himself had much to do with supervising the expedition, and the Queen herself chartered to the leaders the largest vessel - it was the Jesus of Lubeck of 700 tons, but in a wholly rotten condition, (illustration in Williamson, ib., p.68) - and ordered that the fleet should sail under her own royal standard as well as the Cross of St. George. Probably what she hoped for was, first, to find out the exact position in Florida where a French colony had just been planted to the danger of the Spanish in the New World, and to rebuild the dying alliance with Spain against France. If Spain would allow England to trade freely with the West Indies, England would do what Spain appeared incapable of doing, protect the West Indian possessions, and she would thereby strengthen her own economy by the increase in trade, and her defences against the French and Mary Stuart.
Hawkins at the age of 32 sailed from Plymouth on 18 October 1564, in command of a fleet consisting of the royal ship, the Jesus, and three Plymouth vessels, the property of Hawkins, the Saloman, 130 tons, the Tiger, 50, and the Swallow, 30 (not the same as the ship on the first voyage). The total tonnage was 910: the total of the crew was 150, of which 80 sailed in the Jesus. Hawkins took only one man to every six tons, a great reduction on the normal, which resulted in his losing from disease not more than a dozen seamen. The orders he issued to the ships were 'Serve God daily (i.e. daily prayers), love one another (i.e. no quarrelling), preserve your victuals (i.e. no wasting), beware of fire and keep good fellowship (i.e. sail close together)'.
After being delayed for five days at Ferrol by contrary winds he went to Teneriffe and thence to Sierra Leone to pick up slaves. He reached San Domingo on 9 March, Margarita the 16th and called at Barburata in Venezuela. In all these places the Spanish wanted to trade, but the law was against them: therefore Hawkins had to go through the collusive farce of making a show of force so that the Spaniards could plead afterwards that they had been compelled to trade. Twice also, so treacherous were some of the Spanish governors, Hawkins had to make a real demonstration of force, notably at Rio de la Hacha, where Hawkins landed an armed force, 'standing in doubt of their courtesy'. But he was able to sell all his goods, including the slaves, for which he was paid in gold and silver in lump and also in worked precious metals. At Curacao he took on board a large cargo of hides, which commanded a high price in England, to the value of £2,000.
When he arrived in Florida, he found the French settlement under Laudonnière in the direst want. He offered them a passage home, but Laudonnière refused it. He sold the Tiger to the French, and accepted payment in the form of a bill which he was never able to cash. Hawkins also gave them victuals. Laudonnière's gratitude took the form of a tribute that Hawkins 'has won the reputation of a good and charitable man, deserving to be esteemed as much of us all as if he had saved all our lives'.
Hawkins arrived home at Padstow on 20 Spetember 1565. Details of the profits made on this voyage are missing, but the Spanish Ambassador reported to Philip II that the dividend was 60 per cent. The Queen was certainly satisfied, for she granted a coat of arms to Hawkins - sable, on a point wavy a lion passant or; in chief three bezants; for a crest, a demi-moor proper bound in a cord.
The third voyage, 1567. Of the three voyages this one was by far the largest in size and organization, in its objectives the most hazardous, in its commercial and financial results a failure, and in its political results momentous: it is hardly too much to say that it marks the end of one epoch and the opening of another.
The Queen was once again a shareholder, this time contributing two ships. The syndicate was large and impressive and the whole affair was both an important joint-stock company trading for financial profits and also an act of state, part and parcel of the foreign policy of the government. Cecil, says Williamson, played almost the part of managing director.
The total ships were the Jesus of Lubeck, 700 tons and even more rotten than in 1564, in spite of £500 worth of repairs, and the Minion, 300 tons, built in 1536, and said to be 'spent and rotten'. The brothers Hawkins contributed four ships - the William and John, 150, the Swallow, 100, the Judith, 50, the Angel, 33. The total tonnage was 1333, the total personnel was 408, or one man to 3¼ tons, a higher proportion than Hawkins approved of. Among the officers were Hampton and Francis Drake; also a nephew of John Hawkins, a young man named either Paul Hawkins or Horsewell. Drake began the voyage in command of the Jesus, but he transferred later to another ship.
Before Hawkins sailed from Plymouth he had proof that he could not expect anything but hostility from Spain during his voyage. A Flemish admiral, de Wachen, entered Plymouth harbour, went into the Cattewater, where lay Hawkins' ships, refused to dip his flags and tried to get as near as he could to the royal ships. Hawkins at once opened fire: the episode was eventually peaceably disposed of. But the omen was clear.
On 2 October 1567 Hawkins set sail with his six ships and 400 men. About seventy of those men were to return. In Sierra Leone he was invited by the king to join in an attack on the town of Conga. Hawkins agreed and after some fairly stiff fighting he was able to sail westwards on 7 February 1568, with a cargo of nearly 500 Negroes. As an offset he had lost eight or nine men killed, with a largish number of wounded.
He arrived at San Domingo at the end of March and went on to Margarita, where he spent nine days and had a friendly reception from the governor. From there he sailed for Barburata in Venezuela. Here, contrary to all expectations, Hawkins was able to spend two months and to trade very profitably. From Barburata he set out for Rio de la Hacha. Here he met with organized opposition and was forced to take the town by direct assault. All the population and all the wealth of the town had been moved inland as soon as Hawkins appeared. But the booty was betrayed by a renegade Negro slave, and Hawkins had it all put aboard his ships. Then he had an interview with the governor, Castellanos, who gave in and paid 4000 gold pesos belonging to Philip II for sixty slaves and 1000 pesos of his own for another twenty, after which trade was open to everybody. One of Hawkins' gunners, Job Hortop, was much interested in the wild life which he met with, and on this voyage he studied the habits of alligators, catching one with a dog as live bait on a hook and chain (Williamson, ib., p.128).
The next port of call was Santa Marta, small but able to trade. The farce of a collusive landing in force had to be used here, after which Hawkins was able to sell more than 100 slaves and some English goods and to revictual the fleet.
From Santa Marta to Cartagena: here it became clear that a landing was impossible, for the place was strongly fortified. Since leaving England Hawkins had increased his fleet from the original six to ten vessels. At Cartagena he reduced it to eight and set out on the homeward voyage not intending to land anywhere else in the West Indies. It was July and he was anxious to get the Jesus clear of the Caribbean (Williamson, ib., p.131). The Jesus was in such a parlous state that most commanders would have abandoned her. Hawkins did not. Nothing more clearly testifies to Hawkins as a loyal servant of the Queen than his dealing with the problem of the Jesus. She was the Queen's ship: if she were to be abandoned during the voyage, the loss would fall wholly on the Queen. If she had to be abandoned or repaired after returning home, the loss fell on the syndicate. (After the second voyage she had cost them £500). As the Queen's servant Hawkins took a risk. It was essential to repair the Jesus and San Juan de Ulua was the only place to do it.
On 15 September Hawkins sighted San Juan. He was flying only the royal standard, but the colours were so faded that the Spanish officials mistook the flags for Spanish flags and assumed that the ships were the Spanish plate fleet. The anchorage was very small. An island of 240 yards lay parallel to the main coast and about five hundred yards from it, rising some three feet above the highest water level. On the island were some guns which commanded the port. If he was to be safe from treachery, Hawkins must get possession of the island. By good luck he did, because the port officials thought the fleet was the plate fleet and let it in without opposition. Hawkins arranged for victuals and for the payment for them: he sent word to Mexico to announce his arrival and to make clear that his intentions were peaceful (16 September). The real plate fleet was not expected before the end of the month. Hawkins had time to repair his ship and be gone. Next morning the plate fleet arrived. To prevent it from entering its own harbour would ba an act of war. To let it enter was to run grave risks. Hawkins decided he must let the fleet in. An amicable arrangement was come to with the new governor, Don Martin Enriquez, and hostages were exchanged. But Enriquez from the beginning was planning treachery. The wind was unfavourable for an entry until 21 September. When the fleet was inside, there were twenty-eight ships in a much confined space. Enriquez plotted to transfer the pick of the Spanish crews on to a merchantman which could then be manhandled alongside the Minion. The English gunners on the island were to be surprised and knocked out and the guns turned on the English ships. Hawkins spotted the treachery and twice sent to Enriquez to protest against the movements which he saw were taking place. The Viceroy arrested the English messenger the second time and blew the trumpets to launch his attack. The ensuing battle lasted from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon. The Spaniards easily overran the English gunners on the island, but Hawkins got the Minion cleared from her anchors and withdrew from the island. It took longer for the Jesus to be hauled clear, but that too was accomplished. Hawkins then concentrated the fire of these two ships on the two Spanish fighting ships. He brought his guns to bear at point-blank range, sank the Spanish Admiral, and the vice-flagship was set on fire and burnt out. One merchantman also was destroyed. The Spanish sank the Angel and captured the Swallow and the Portuguese caravel. The Grace of God lost her mainmast and had to be abandoned. The Judith, commanded by Drake, got clear. The Spanish then tried to dislodge the English by means of fireships which caused a panic in the Minion's men, who cast her off from the Jesus. As she began to move, the men on the Jesus made a rush to get aboard the Minion: Hawkins was the last to leave the Jesus.
The Minion did not go more than a quarter of a mile, but she was out of range of the island guns. With her was the Judith. Next morning the Judith was gone, and no one has ever to this day discovered why Drake left Hawkins alone. Hawkins had no food and the Minion was leaking. It is not possible to know precisely what his casualties amounted to, but he seems to have left San Juan with about 200 men. After a fortnight he landed all the men who wanted to risk their lives rather on land than on sea. He sailed for home on 16 October: on 31 December he entered the port of Vigo, where he bought victuals, but 'our men with excess of fresh meat grew into miserable diseases and died, a great part of them'. He picked up twelve new men from an English ship and set sail on 20 January 1569. He reached Mount's Bay on 25 January, sent a message to his brother at Plymouth and got from him a new crew to bring the Minion home.
The voyage had been a disaster, but it was not a financial failure. The records in the Admiralty Court shew that Hawkins transferred nearly all the treasure from the Jesus to the Minion and brought it safely to England.
Hawkins and the Ridolfi Plot. Hawkins was left with a burning fury against Spain for the treachery at San Juan, the more inflamed by the treatment meted out (in Mexico and in Spain) to those of his crews who had been taken prisoners. He was determined to have his revenge for the treachery and to get the prisoners released.
In February 1570 a letter reached Cecil from George Fitzwilliam, one of Hawkins' imprisoned crews at Seville, asking for the government's help to get them released. Hawkins at once had several interviews with the Spanish Ambassador, Don Guereau de Spes. At this moment Fitzwilliam was released. Hawkins sent him to Madrid to interview Philip II (April 1571). Cecil was well aware that Spain was backing the Ridolfi plot for an invasion of England by Alva, the murder of Elizabeth and the enthronement of Mary, Queen of the Scots, in her place. But he did not know the details. John Hawkins helped him unravel the plot.
Hawkins succeeded in gulling the foolish de Spes into believing that he was an ardent Catholic, that he wanted to see Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne of England and that at the moment of invasion by the Spanish navy he would desert with all his ships to the side of Spain. All this was done with Cecil's knowledge and approval; de Spes and Philip were completely hoodwinked. Philip gave Hawkins a patent of Spanish nobility and a pardon for his offences in the West Indies, with a promise to pay for the upkeep of sixteen ships and 1,600 men for two months. Having concerted with Philip the exact plans for the invasion, Hawkins at once passed them on to Cecil, who was now able to bring together all the pieces in the puzzle - the part Alva was to play, the complicity of Mary Stuart's ambassador, the Bishop of Ross, the treachery of the Duke of Norfolk. Ross confessed all, Norfolk was executed and de Spes turned out of the country. Hawkins, the tough naval commander, was now revealed as the subtle diplomatist.
Hawkins and the New Navy. In 1571 Hawkins became M.P. for Plymouth. In 1573 he was all but murdered. He was riding along the Strand, when suddenly a man named Peter Burchett stabbed him, mistaking him for Sir Christopher Hatton, not because of any physical resemblance between Hawkins and Hatton, but probably because both always had a liking for specially fine clothes. The wound was severe, but Hawkins recovered and suffered no ill effects afterwards. In 1577 he succeeded his father-in-law, Sir Benjamin Gonson, as Treasurer of the Navy. For the next ten years Hawkins was taken up with reforming both the administration of the Navy and also the building of the ships themselves.
The men who formed the Navy Board belonged to a generation which had seen service only in home waters. The only theatre of fighting which they could imagine was the Channel and the North Sea. For such fighting they believed in the old-fashioned ship, the floating castle, of which the Jesus of Lubeck was well known to Hawkins. These carracks rose out of the water and were made very unwieldy by the top-heavy castles which were built at the bow and stern in order to repel the enemy, if they were able to board the ship. Hawkins had seen at San Juan de Ulua how unserviceable and dangerous such a ship could be. Further, Hawkins had no intention of confining the war against Spain to the Channel and the North Sea: he intended to fight in the Atlantic, at the Azores, on the Coast of Spain and in the West Indies. For such warfare a new kind of ship was needed. Between 1570 and 1587 the design of the new ships was considerably modified. The evidence that this was wholly the work of Hawkins is not conclusive and some credit may have to be given to Wynter and the rest of the Navy Board. But it is difficult not to feel that the drive towards such a reform must have come from the experienced Hawkins. What Hawkins wanted was ships that could sail much nearer the wind than the old 'round ship', so that they could choose their own range for fighting. Therefore the length of the keel was increased and the ship was what we should call today streamlined. The proportions of the ships built at the Deptford yard were usually three or three and a half times their breadth in the length on keel, or four times their breadth over the whole length of the ship. This gave speed and manoeuvrability, which was increased by cutting down the towering upper works on deck. These were only needed for close fighting, but Hawkin's plan was to increase the armament of the ships and to fight at long range. The ships, therefore, rolled less in heavy weather and greater use could be made of the gun-ports on the lower decks. The enemy was never to be allowed to board, therefore the guns in the upper works were unnecessary.
The ships were more heavily armed - an improvement which was probably the work of Wynter, but of which Hawkins highly approved. A typical example of this new sort of ship is the Revenge, which was built in 1575. She was of 450 tons, 92 feet long, 32 feet broad, carrying forty-six guns in all. She remained the model for all English ships for the next three hundred years.
In what may be called the interior economy of the ships Hawkins was a pioneer. He refused to crowd the ships with men. The normal ratio was one man to every one and a half tons, but Hawkins preferred one man to two tons. This reform made the seaworthiness of a fleet greater, since victuals and drink lasted longer. Victuals for one man for four months occupied one ton of storage: guns, ammunition, etc. had to be allowed for: thus to reduce the number of men to one man for every two tons added fifty per cent. to the time a fleet could stay at sea.
Hawkins also increased the pay of the men from 6s. 8d. to 10s. per month. He was greatly interested in hygiene. In 1586 he introduced into his own ships apples and pears and he kept live pigs and sheep on board. On his last voyage in 1595 he experimented with 'lasting victuals, a new kind of victuals for sea service devised by Mr Hugh Platte, 4 barrels at £4. 10s the barrel'. On this voyage he also took with him 927 'Brasill Beds', probably hammocks copied from a pattern used by the Indians in Guiana, which was looked on as part of Brazil - hence the name 'Brasill beds'.
Hawkins and the Two Bargains. In 1577/8, just after he had become Treasurer of the Navy, Hawkins made a report to Burghley on the corruption which he found rampant in the dockyards. The Queen was being made to pay £9,000 for materials and not £4,000 worth was used in her service. The difference went 'for Sir William Wynter's commodity'. Similarly she was paying for good timber for repair to her ships, but the repairs were being carried out in rotten timber, while the good was used for other people's private ships. As a result of this report a new system was instituted in 1597 in the First Bargain.
This Bargain comprised two agreements: one between the Queen and Hawkins, by which Hawkins undertook to provide at his own expense all the ropes, cables, hawsers and other gear, for which he was to be paid £1,200 p.a. without having to render detailed accounts, but his work was to be supervised and a report sent in to Burghley: another between the Queen and Pett and Baker, the master-shipwrights, who undertook a regular routine of inspection and repairs of the ships at their own expense, for which they were paid £1,000 p.a. and their work was also to be supervised.
Hawkins saw that war was imminent. He wanted to save the Queen £4,000 which was being wasted by dishonest contractors; to make her unsound ships into sound ships; and to fit the fleet for trans-oceanic service. Naturally enough those who lost by the new system never stopped accusing Hawkins of robbing the Queen and of ruining the ships, but an enquiry in 1583 into the state of the navy exonerated Hawkins.
The Second Bargain was struck in 1585. By it the agreement between the Queen and the master-shipwrights was ended. Hawkins now undertook to do all the repairs to ships afloat or grounded, pay all the wages involved in administering this work, to find all the materials, victuals and lodgings involved. For this he was to receive £4,000 p.a. In addition he undertook to do all the heavy repairs and to find all the materials, wages, etc. For this he was to be paid £1,714 2s. 2d. p.a. Hawkins thus became responsible for the upkeep of the whole Royal Navy, but the armaments were not included. Again he was relentlessly pursued by those who had lost their illegal profits by his reforms. The justification for his policy and the integrity of his character were revealed in the efficient state of the fleet when it sailed against the Armada.
Hawkins as a strategist It is a mistake to regard Hawkins solely as an active naval commander and an administrator in business and commerce or of the Royal Navy. He was also a man whose 'wide-ranging mind' (Williamson) included within its purview the strategical conduct of the war. Hawkins held that Philip II depended on his American treasure to save him from bankruptcy. Therefore, if sea-power were brought to bear on the Atlantic trade routes, Philip would be ruined, England would be safe. Hawkins rejected all idea of military invasions, because England had no army and military adventures were expensive for a country which had no money to spare. He therefore relied on purely naval warfare, which might be made to a larger extent to pay for itself.
Hawkins and the Spanish Armada When the Armada set sail from Spain, Hawkins could not at once leave the Navy Board, and it was June before he joined the fleet at Plymouth, Here he took command of the Victory, one of his new ships. He ranked third in seniority below Howard and Drake, and he was a member of the war council which Howard consulted 'on every question of moment'. When the fleet moved out toward Ushant, Hawkins was in command of the in-shore squadron towards the Scilly Isles. He took part in all the engagements with the Armada as it sailed up the Channel, and on Friday, 26 July he was knighted by Howard on board the Ark Royal. The fight between Portland and the Isle of Wight had revealed weaknesses in the organization of the English fleet, which was now formed into four squadrons, one of which was under the command of Hawkins. By the time the English fleet left contact with the Armada and abandoned it to destruction by wind and wave Hawkins's policy as Treasurer of the Navy had been fully justified: not one of the English ships had fallen out of the fight owing to damage by the sea or by the enemy.
Hawkins's post-Armada voyages After the defeat of the Armada Hawkins had a year's leave in order to deal with the naval accounts. In 1591 his wife died, but he soon married again; his new wife was called Margaret Vaughan. In 1592 he founded an almshouse at Chatham, known as Sir John Hawkins' Hospital, and it survives today. Hawkins made two voyages after the Armada. In 1590 he organised an expedition in two squadrons: one squadron of six of the Queen's galleons under Frobisher sailed for the Azores, victualled for four months, while a second squadron of six under Hawkins, victualled for six months, sailed for the Spanish coast. When Philip heard of it, he cancelled all sailings from the West Indies, so that Frobisher and Hawkins could take only a few prizes, which paid for some of the expenses of the fleets.
In 1595 Hawkins and Drake sailed in a fleet which was put under the joint command of both. This was a joint-stock company in which the Queen took shares. Its purpose was to land a force at Nombre de Dios, march across the isthmus and capture Panama. But in August news came which caused them to change their objective - that the flagship of the plate fleet was lying damaged in San Juan de Puerto Rico. Hawkins and Drake sailed from Plymouth on 28 August with the intention of capturing the treasure and bringing it straight home. The voyage was a disaster. The joint command was a great mistake: Hawkins and Drake were men of wholly different character and they never succeeded in establishing a unity of command by which alone the voyage could succeed. They quarrelled, they wasted time and opportunities, and Spain meanwhile was taking counter-measures. One of the English ships, the small Francis, was taken by the Spanish, revealing that Puerto Rico was the destination of the fleet. Spanish reinforcements sailed at once for Puerto Rico. The game was up. On 31 October Hawkins fell ill and he died on 12 November 1595. He was buried at sea.
Character of Hawkins Modern research has discredited the hostile views about Hawkins which appear in J.K. Laughton's article in the D.N.B. The nineteenth-century historians were writing at just the time when public opinion loathed the idea of slaves and slavery. If Hawkins was capable of trafficking in slaves, he was capable of any other sort of dishonesty and cruelty. But in fact in dealing in slaves Hawkins was only doing what public opinion of his own day approved. He was a product of the Tudor age, a man of diversified abilities. He was a consummate seaman, a bold and skilful navigator, a first-class businessman, an original designer of ships and of strategy, in a corrupt age an uncorrupt administrator of the Navy, a politician and diplomatist who could outwit a foreign ambassador, single-minded in his devotion to the Queen. He was also a man of fashion, well educated, able to write clearly technical memoranda for Burghley, finely dressed, one who moved as easily in the company of Kings and courtiers as he did with sailors and contractors. He could command strict discipline among his crews, yet at the same time command their affection and respect. In religion he was, to begin with, an orthodox Catholic, but as the years went by and the fierceness of the war increased, he became gradually more and more Protestant, so that his letters towards the end have a Puritan ring about them. Like most people of his time, at any rate in the later years, and like Oliver Cromwell after him, he identified the enemies of his country with the enemies of God. There is a steadiness about him, a determination to order things carefully and methodically, leaving nothing to chance, which contrasts strongly with the haphazard way in which Drake left everything to the inspiration of the moment. Drake was a genius whose exploits have won for him immortal fame, but it is doubtful whether he contributed more to the defeat of Spain and the salvation of England than his less famous, but not less devoted patriot, Sir John Hawkins.
J.A. Williamson, Hawkins of Plymouth, 1949.
M. Lewis, 'Fresh Light on San Juan de Ulua', in Mariner's Mirror, July 1937.
I.A. Wright, Caribbean Documents.
Raynor Unwin, The Defeat of John Hawkins, 1960.
© C.R.N. Routh 1990. Reproduced by permission of Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) Ltd