|The Awakening of Europe|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book III of the Story of the World series. Covers the reformation in Germany, the Netherlands, France, and England, as well as the settlement of colonies in America. The rise of England and the Netherlands as sea powers, and the corresponding fall of Spain, as well as the rise of Russia, Austria, and the German states are also presented. Ages 11-18 |
"Brave the captain was; the seamen
Made a gallant crew,
Gallant sons of English freedom,
Sailors bold and true."
 NOW, of all the great sailors who helped Queen Elizabeth to build up England's sea power, the greatest was Francis
Drake. Of all the heroes whose exploits have set our world's history aglow with romance, there is not one more
thrilling than the life-story of this man. His every deed from the cradle to the grave is a story. The first
sight of him is as a small blue-eyed, curly-haired boy in the midst of a party of desperate Protestants in
Devonshire flying for their lives from an outburst of Roman Catholic fury. Coming of a large Protestant family,
the boy grew up full of hatred for the Church of Rome.
At the time of the abdication of Charles V. he was fifteen, and already apprenticed to the master of a small
ship plying between England and the Netherlands. There he would hear of Philip's tyranny, of Alva's massacres,
of the Netherlands revolt.
His rough school on the high seas was not without its reward. He became a remarkably clever sailor, and when
the skipper of his ship died he left it to young Francis Drake.
 "But the narrow seas were a prison for so large a spirit born for greater undertakings," and the very year that
the Counts Egmont and Horn were beheaded in Brussels, 1567, Drake was commanding a small ship, the Judith, in
an expedition commanded by his kinsman, John Hawkins.
Now, John Hawkins was a Devonshire man too, and related to the Drakes. His father had been a sailor in the time
of Henry V., and his son John, who was to do so much for the navy of England, was about thirty at the time when
Elizabeth became queen. With young Drake in command of the Judith, and some other ships, Hawkins set sail from
Plymouth in October 1567.
The little fleet was a good deal knocked about in the rough gales then blowing in the Bay of Biscay, but they
reached the Canary Isles in safety, and sailed thence to some of the Spanish settlements along the coast of
America. Here, having collected a vast store of gold, silver, and jewels, they turned homewards. But a gale
blew them into the Gulf of Mexico, where they knew full well no welcome would await them from the Spaniards
there. However, they made a treaty and stopped to repair their injured ships. But treachery was in the air, and
without note or warning the Spaniards suddenly attacked them furiously. Bravely enough they tried to defend
their ships and their cargo, but at last they had to escape as best they might, Hawkins in one battered ship
and Drake in another.
 On the 23rd of January 1569 a weather-beaten man was riding post-haste from Plymouth to London with tidings of
a desperate fray with the Spaniards. It was Francis Drake, and soon all England was ringing with the news,
which had the great result that trade between Spain and England was stopped. It was the beginning of the end.
True, Hawkins and Drake became the heroes of the hour; but over England herself a fierce war-cloud lowered, the
horizon was dark with the danger of coming storm. The Netherlands were in open revolt against Spain, but so far
England had taken no part publicly.
The very year that the Beggars of the Sea were sailing to Brille, Drake was stealing secretly away from
Plymouth port with a little fleet and crew of seventy-three men, all under the age of thirty, on a desperate
venture against Spain on the farther side of the Atlantic. He had found out that Philip's treasure from the
mines of Peru was landed at Panama, and carried across the narrow neck of land on the backs of many mules, to
be reshipped for Spain on the other side.
"I have brought you to the treasure-house of the world," cried Drake, when he had sailed safely across the
broad Atlantic. "Blame yourselves if you go away empty."
They were but a handful of men against the Spaniards, who attacked them. As Drake led his
 little party of adventurers forward he was badly wounded, and fainted from loss of blood. This prevented the
Spanish treasure from being carried off by the English. The sun rose next morning on their glorious failure,
and the famous attempt on the "treasure-house of the world" was at an end.
But Drake was still undaunted. Disasters befell him. His brother died in his arms, thirty of his little band
died of sickness, others were too ill to stand. It is impossible to follow all his adventures, but the story of
how he first saw the Pacific Ocean must be told. With eighteen men and native guides he started off to climb
the forest-clad spurs of the dividing ridge of mountains dividing the two seas. The expedition was not unlike
that of Balboa some sixty years before.
Arrived at the top, he climbed a tree, and for the first time an Englishman gazed on the vast Southern Sea,
named by Magellan the Pacific Ocean. Returning to his men, he fell on his knees, like a crusader of old, and
besought "Almighty God of His goodness to give him life and leave to sail once in an English ship on that sea."
It was a great moment in the history of England. Jealously
had Spain guarded this Southern Sea
which now lay under the eyes of an Englishman.
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