« ZurückWeiter »
ing it, by means of fireships.* 'God hathe geven us' (writes Drake) so good a daye in foreyng the enemy so far leeward, as I hope in God the Prince of Parma and the Duke of Sedonya 'shall not shake hands these four dayes; and whenever they meet, I believe neither of them will greatly rejoyce of this daye's servis. The toune of Callys hathe scene some parte thereof, whose mayor her majestie is beholding unto. Busynes 'commands me to end. God help her majestie our gracyous sovereygne, and give us all grace to live in his feare.' t
This indeed was the critical moment for England. The Duke of Parma was at Bruges. Thirty thousand more of the old Spanish troops, under the most distinguished commander of the age, might well have turned the scale. Where then was Farnese at this conjuncture? Nothing can be more wretched than the defences of his apologists: leaky boats-sailors not to be depended on-want of vessels of the right draught of water-such are the pretences alleged for breaking his engagements to Philip, and disappointing the magnificent hopes entertained of his cooperation. He had had months, nay years, to provide himself against all these contingencies. While the Armada was struggling up the Channel, and while, during three anxious days, it lay off the coast of Flanders, he remained all the time quiet at Bruges: not until it was in full sail to the northward, did he come to the coast at all. It suited the policy of Philip to exonerate him of all blame; and thus he has escaped more easily at the hands of posterity than could otherwise have happened. It is certainly difficult to believe, but that he was either actuated by personal motives, in thus wavering at the important moment, or that he abandoned, from sheer irresolution, as promising a chance for immortal honour as ever was offered to any leader.
From the moment that the Armada, scarcely rescued from the sands of Flanders by a sudden change of wind, and despairing of Parma's assistance, pursued her course to the northward, closely followed by the fleet of Elizabeth, the crisis in the destinies of England was over. From that day to the present, her
* We do not know on what authority Sir James Mackintosh (History of England) calls this the first instance of the use of fireships in modern war. The same instrument of annoyance had been tried against Drake's squadron in the bay of Cadiz only the year before, and against the Spaniards at Antwerp.
† P. 300. Why does Mr Barrow say that the date of this letter (29th July) is incorrect, and should be 27th? The night attack was clearly on the night of the 28th.
navies have ridden fearless in every sea, her cannon has been heard on every shore she alone has remained untouched and impregnable: quousque tandem?
It seems that many in England were disappointed at the escape of the Armada from its perilous position at Calais, without further damage: Drake, who could judge better the amount of danger from which his country had been delivered, felt very differently. There never was any thing pleased me better,' he writes to Walsingham, with a natural burst of exultation, than seeing the enemy flying with a southerly wind to the north'ward! God grant you have a good eye to the Duke of Parma, for with the grace of God, yf we live, I doubt it not but 'ere it be long so to handell the matter with the Duke of Sedonya, as he shall wish hymself at Saint Marie Port, among his orynge trees.' These pugnacious intentions, however, were frustrated by the rapidity of the Armada's retreat. The winds and waves, as they had commenced, so were left to finish the ruin of this fated expedition. There is a long and amusing letter of Drake's, dated the 10th August, full of conjectures as to their further proceedings; and another of the 11th, which seems to have been written for no other purpose than to certify to the Queen that the Lord High Admiral had bravely done his duty, and become a very apt scholar:' which letter closes this eventful period of Drake's correspondence.
There is something very striking in the contrast between Lord Effingham's letters on this great occasion, and Drake's, compared with the perfect unanimity which seems to have prevailed between them;-the Admiral, high-born and chivalrous, foremost in every action of danger, yet never in any instance assuming the direction to himself, and seeming to value his superior position only as it enabled him to follow out more zealously the plans of his experienced subordinates. Drake, again, evidently the real manager of the defence, and selected as the champion of England in her danger; yet never presuming on his real superiority, giving all glory to the Queen, his men, and the ministry, and holding himself out merely as the zealous instrument of the will of others. Such harmony between officers so circumstanced, moving in spheres so likely to come into collision, is rare indeed, as all history testifies; and nothing more highly proves the strength of that common enthusiasm which their incomparable mistress had succeeded in infusing alike into the bosom of the nobleman and the adventurer. And yet if loyalty could be tried by niggardly treatment, theirs assuredly was. Effingham and his men, who had just saved England, were left in a few weeks, it should seem, almost in utter destitution. Before the month of August, the very next after that
in which they had performed their immortal services, was over, we find the Lord Admiral fain to borrow a trifling sum for the necessities of the fleet, out of the money which Drake, with a keener eye to the main chance, had contrived to seize on board Don Pedro Valdez's ship-the only valuable capture of the campaign.*
Sir,' (he writes to Walsingham on the 27th August,) 'I send you here inclosed a note of the money that Sir F. Drake had aboard Don Pedro. I did take now at my coming down 3000 pistolets, as I told you I wolde; for by Jesus I had not three pounds left in the world, and had not any thinge (?) could get money in London. And I dow assure you, my plat has gone before; but I will repay it within few days after my comyng home. I pray you let her Majestie know so; and by the Lord God of hevne I had not one crown mor, and had it not byne mere nesesite I would not have touched one: but if I had not sum to have bestowed upon sum pour and myserable men, I should have wyshed myself out of the world. Sir, let me not lyve longer then I shall be most wylling to dow all sarvys, and to take any paynse I can for her Majesties sarvis. I thynk Sir F. Drake will say I have lyttell rest, day or night.'-(P. 330.)
At the very time when the poor sailors were left thus unprovided, it appears that an infectious complaint was committing daily ravages in the fleet. It is a thynge,' as Lord Howard truly observes, that ever followeth such great sarvyses.' Ingratitude follows them almost as certainly. In September, however, the fleet was paid off; and no doubt the thanks of their magnanimous Queen were received in full quittance by the survivors of the gallant men who had saved her and her kingdom. Such, in Hume's language, was the spirit of Elizabeth's reign. No service was too great to require; no payment too slight for a requital, when accompanied with her commendations and favour. There was pride, as well as the gratification of a very excusable parsimony, in receiving the tales of bricks, made without treasury straw, which her officers laid at her feet. In fact her Majesty's navy, at this period, was managed much on the principle on which, in modern days, Henri Christophe,
* Drake took 55,000 ducats from this ship, (besides many prisoners worth a large sum,) some of whom were kept eighteen months in Plymouth, until their ransoms were paid. Drake seems, from one of his letters, to have been very uneasy about these prisoners, whom he was obliged to send to the Queen, lest her Majesty should either appropriate them, or make them over to some hungry courtier. "Yf they shoulde be geven from me unto any other, it would be some grief to my friends. Yf her Majestie will have them, God defend but I should think myself happy.'
King of Hayti, conducted his cavalry establishment. No remounts were ever allowed; but every cavalier, receiving his horse and arms when he first joined the service, was expected ever afterwards to appear on parade well mounted and equipped, on penalty of the royal displeasure; and the story adds that the cavalry always looked remarkably well. His sable majesty used to point them out with pride to his visitors, and remark'The King's horses never die; but they change their skins now ' and then. Instead of making fortunes in the public service, Elizabeth's great men esteemed it the highest honour to waste theirs in obtaining her smiles. Even with the common men who swelled her army in 1588, it was less the enthusiasm of self-defence than devotion to her person, which inspired every sacrifice; and it is recorded that a regiment of Dorsetshire men, raised to protect their own coast, offered five hundred pounds for the privilege of leaving their homes unguarded, and serving under her at Tilbury.
According to the ordinary theory, which assumes that good and regular pay is the necessary condition of all military virtue, Elizabeth's was a strange method of defending an empire against the hostile strength of half Europe, and dangerous disaffection at home; yet the result spoke for itself. Compare the unbought service which Elizabeth could command, with all that James I. or Catharine II. could purchase with their insane prodigalities! Mere love of honour-without some strong and stirring popular cause-may be an insufficient motive, without good rations, to keep up the valour of the common sailor or soldier: so, at least thought Drake of his own countrymen. An Englyshman, being farre from his country, and seeing a present want of 'vittual to insew, and perceiving no benefyt to be looked for, 'but only blowes, will hardly be brought to stay.' Nor will he appreciate, in ordinary times, the argument of one of Trissino's heroes in favour of putting off dinner until after a Council of WarPoi ch'è meglio
Senza cibo restar che senz' onore.'
We speak rather of the Leaders-civil and military alike. Who was ever better served than Gustavus Adolphus, Frederic the Great, the Convention, and the Directory? and in whose service was there ever greater glory, with scantier pay? The higher energies of man are no mercenary qualities after all; he may be decently grateful to the government which feeds him well, but his heart belongs to that which stimulates his faculties, and rouses his self-esteem.
The year of the Armada was the culminating point in the career of Drake. From this period, though his own energies never slackened, fortune seems to have slighted him, in favour of
younger candidates for her good graces. In 1589 he was placed. at the head of the naval part of the greatest armament which issued from the ports of England during Elizabeth's reign. It was destined to further his own cherished object, a descent on the Spanish coast. His personal influence, fortune, and zealous entreaties at court, were directed for months towards the equipment of it. The Queen contributed about L.60,000 towards it, together with six ships; and the Dutch assisted both with ships and men, But by far the greatest part of the risk was undertaken by private adventurers. The nation was possessed with an absolute passion for bearding the Don on his own terri tory. Of some 20,000 soldiers and sailors in the expedition, 1100 were said to be gentlemen; scarcely a family in Devon and Cornwall, the nurseries of foreign adventure, which did not send out its member. But these mixed expeditions of war and traf 'fic,' says Mr Barrow, so common in those days, how well soever conducted, were rarely successful; and the fitting out of the present one was not auspicious. It was detained a whole month at Plymouth; it was disappointed in its promised forces and equipments; of six hundred English horses; of seven old companies of the Low Countries; of four Dutch companies besides other matters; and it suffered by the consumption and expense ' of provisions for a whole month, laid wind-bound at Plymouth.' Besides these ordinary miseries, and the extreme difficulty of squeezing a few hundred pounds by way of relief from Lord Bur leigh, Drake, who, in an earlier expedition, had been plagued with the chivalry of Sir Philip Sidney, was now troubled by a similar exhibition of valour on the part of the young Earl of Essex. That adventurous nobleman had signified his resolution to join the armament as a volunteer, less from chivalrous motives than a desire to retrieve his pecuniary fortunes. His mistress immediately directed that, as soon as he made his appearance, he should be sent back to the court. "This cause of the Earl of Es sex,' writes Sir Francis Drake to Hatton, hath been and is a very great trouble unto us, for that we heare contyneually that 'his lordship's abyding is uncertain in any particular place. We have sent both by sea and land, and now dayly expect to hear from his lordship.' Essex succeeded in getting away from the royal apron-string, and aided much, by his gallantry and spirit, in keeping up the courage of his fellow adventurers. The history of the expedition is briefly told; though, short as it is, it has been made the subject of great misrepresentations, with regard to Drake.. Dr Lingard with whom a true subject of Elizabeth, and a successful scourger of Spain, has little chance of justice-volunteers the statement, that Drake refused to be shackled with official 'instructions, and sailed directly to the harbour of Corunna.'