John Hawkins (naval commander)

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Sir John Hawkins

Admiral Sir John Hawkins (also spelled as Hawkyns) (1532 – 12 November 1595) was an English slave trader, shipbuilder, naval administrator and commander, merchant, navigator, pirate. He was considered the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade, based on selling African slaves in the Spanish colonies of Santo Domingo and Venezuela in the late 16th century.

As treasurer (1577) and controller (1589) of the Royal Navy, Hawkins rebuilt older ships and helped design the faster ships that withstood the Spanish Armada in 1588. One of the foremost seamen of 16th-century England, Hawkins was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy. In the battle in which the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, Hawkins served as a vice admiral. He was knighted for gallantry. He later devised the naval blockade to intercept Spanish treasure ships leaving Mexico and South America.

Family[edit]

John Hawkins, born at Plymouth and likely brought up there, was the second son of William Hawkins (b. before 1490, d. 1554/5), a merchant, shipowner and sea captain; and Joan Trelawny, daughter and sole heir of Roger Trelawny of Brighton, Cornwall.[1] William Hawkins was a confidante of Henry VIII and one of England's principal sea captains, having sailed to the New World about 1527.[citation needed] Sir Francis Drake, 2nd cousin, helped Hawkins in his second voyage.[citation needed] The boy grew up following his father's trade.

Early years[edit]

John Hawkins' letters and memoranda suggest that he was well educated, although no details of his schooling have survived. Before he reached the age of twenty, he had slain a man named White from Plymouth, but secured a royal pardon. White was adjudged the aggressor by a coroner's inquest.

Hawkins is thought to have done some services as a young man for the ambassadors from Spain, who negotiated the marriage of Mary I of England and Philip II of Spain. But, the Spanish claim that Hawkins was personally knighted by the King is likely without foundation. Hawkins was known to have referred frequently to King Philip as 'my old master'.In fact, Hawkins was known as Juan Aquines by the Spaniards, who castilianized name, such was his fame among them.[1]

In 1555 John Lok brought five men from present-day Ghana back to England from a trading voyage to Guinea.[2][3] William Towerson was a second London trader who brought Africans to England at that time, landing at Plymouth following his 1557 and 1569 voyages to Africa. But, Hawkins is considered to be the pioneer of the British slave trade, as in 1555 he was the first to run the Triangular trade to the Spanish colonies in the Americas, and making a profit at every stop.

First voyages (1562–1563)[edit]

Hawkins formed a syndicate of wealthy merchants to invest in trade. In 1562, he set sail with three ships for the Caribbean via Sierra Leone. They hijacked a Portuguese slave ship and traded the 301 slaves in the Caribbean islands. Despite having two ships seized by the Spanish authorities, he sold the slaves in Santo Domingo and gained a profit for his London investors. His voyage caused the Spanish to ban all English ships from trading in their West Indies colonies .[citation needed]

Second voyages (1564–1565)[edit]

In 1564, Queen Elizabeth I partnered with Hawkins by leasing the huge old 700-ton ship Jesus of Lubeck, on which he set forth on a more extensive voyage, along with three small ships. Hawkins sailed with his second cousin, Francis Drake, to the west African coast, privateering along the way. By the time he left, he carried African slaves; 400 survived when he reached Borburata on the western Venezuelan coast to trade as slaves.

The Spanish liked to keep a monopoly on trade, but Diego Ruiz de Vallejo, public accountant, allowed Hawkins to trade slaves on the condition he pay 7.5% of the Almojarifazgo tax. Alonzo Bernaldez, the Borburata governor, submitted a report in which the transaction was recorded as legitimate. After Hawkins traded at all Venezuelan ports and Rio de la Hacha, with advantageous returns, he was awarded a certificate of good behavior. In summary, Hernando de Heredia, Rio de la Hacha public notary and councilman hereby stated:

During the course of the first 19 days of May, Sir Juan Haquines, commander of the English fleet stationed in Rio de la Hacha, carried out commercial operations with all residents by trading slaves and goods...

A commercial license was extended to him on 21 May 1565 by honorable sirs Rodrigo Caso, city regular mayor, Hernando Castilla, Miguel de Castellanos, treasurer, Lazaro de Vallejo Alderete, quartermaster, Baltasar de Castellanos and Domingo Felix, aldermen. During the same year, Audience of Santo Domingo initiated investigations leading to know about the irregular activities performed by Rio de la Hacha seniors officials who were involved in a deal with John Hawkins. Castellanos, the treasurer, was accused of having a fraudulent deal regarding to slave trade. It was the third time the English filibuster roamed about the area accomplishing large commercial operations among which the slave trade was significant. This fact was not overlooked by Santo Domingo Audience civil servants in connection to his visits to Venezuelan ports: In the year 65 [...] recorded in 1567 [...] there was such a coaster named Juan de Aquines, Englishman [...] with enough goods and 300 to 400 slaves product of his raids in Guinea territory [...] In the Province of Venezuela quite a few slaves and merchandise were rescued from this Englishman and others such as Frenchmen and Portuguese who were accustomed to this kind of activities... .[4]

After trading at Borburata, Hawkins sailed to Rio de la Hacha. The officials tried to prevent Hawkins from selling the slaves by imposing taxes. Captain Hawkins refused to pay the taxes and threatened to burn the towns. After selling his slaves, Captain Hawkins sailed to a French colony in Florida for a respite. Captain Hawkins returned to England in September 1566; his expedition was considered a total success as his financiers made a 60% profit.[citation needed]

Third voyage (1567–1569)[edit]

His third voyage began in 1567. Hawkins and Drake obtained many more slaves from traders in Africa, and also augmented the cargo by capturing the Portuguese slave ship Madre de Deus (Mother of God) and its human cargo. He took about 400 slaves across the Atlantic on the third trip to sell in Dominica, Margarita island and Borburata.

At San Juan de Ulúa (in modern Vera Cruz), he encountered a strong Spanish force, which had arrived to potentially put down a Mexican independence movement. By edict of 16 June 1567, King Philip II of Spain had ordered an investigative commission to study rumours of a Mexican movement to gain independence from the Spanish Crown. The commission consisted of Licenciado Gaspar de Jarava, Licenciado Alonso Muñoz, and Doctor Luis Carrillo. De Jarava and Muñoz were from the Council of the Indies, while Carrillo was an official at the Court.

The independence movement was thought to be led by the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico Gaston de Peralta, 3rd Marquis of Falces, and his half-brothers Martin Cortés I "El Mestizo"; Martin Cortés y Zúñiga (also known as Martin Cortés II; and Martín Cortés, 2nd Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca); and Luis Cortés y Hermosillo.

The commission was backed by the General Commander of the Fleet, newly appointed governor of Cuba Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (founder of the City of San Agustin, Florida). He was assisted by the capable seafarer Sancho Pardo Donlebún, who was later to be a powerful adversary of both Hawkins and Drake.

In the ensuing Battle of San Juan de Ulúa, the Spanish destroyed all but two of the English ships. Hawkins' voyage home was a miserable one. Hawkins' gunner, Job Hartop, had an equally difficult time returning to England and did not succeed for many years.

Although his first three voyages were semi-piratical enterprises, Queen Elizabeth I needed their revenues. She considered the pirates to be fighting her battles with Spain and Portugal at their own cost and risk.

Hawkins wrote about his third voyage in detail in An Alliance to Raid for Slaves. Specifically he noted that trading and raiding were closely related in the English slave trade, and European success in the trade directly depended on African allies. He also commented on the amount of violence he and his men used to secure the captives and force their submission.

1570–1587[edit]

The arms of Sir John Hawkins

As part of the English government's web of counter-espionage, Hawkins pretended to be part of the Ridolfi plot to betray Queen Elizabeth in 1571. By gaining the confidence of Spain's ambassador to England, he learned the details of the conspiracy, and notified the government so to arrest the plotters. He offered his services to the Spanish, in order to obtain the release of prisoners of war, and to discover plans for the proposed Spanish invasion of England.

His help in foiling the plot was rewarded. In 1571 Hawkins entered Parliament as MP for Plymouth. He was appointed as Treasurer of the Royal Navy on 1 January 1578, following the death of his predecessor Benjamin Gonson. (Gonson was also his father-in-law, as Hawkins married the man's daughter, Katherine Gonson, in 1567).

Hawkins' financial reforms of the Navy upset many who had vested interests. In 1582 his rival Sir William Wynter accused him of administrative malfeasance, instigating a royal commission on fraud against him. The commission, under William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Francis Walsingham, and Drake, concluded that there was no undue corruption, and that the Queen's Navy was in first-rate condition.[5]

Hawkins was determined that his navy, as well as having the best fleet of ships in the world, would also have the best quality of seamen. He petitioned and won a pay increase for sailors, arguing that a smaller number of well-motivated and better-paid men would be more effective than a larger group of uninterested men.

Hawkins made important improvements in ship construction and rigging. He is less well known for his inventiveness as a shipwright than for his management. His innovations included sheathing the underside of his ships with a skin of nailed elm planks sealed with a combination of pitch and hair smeared over the bottom timbers, as a protection against the worms which attacked the wooden hulls in tropical seas. Hawkins also introduced detachable topmasts; they could be hoisted and used in good weather and stowed in heavy seas. Masts were stepped further forward, and sails were cut flatter. His ships were "race-built", being longer and with forecastle and aftcastle (or poop) greatly reduced in size.

Spanish Armada[edit]

The Spanish Armada in 1588

John Hawkins' innovative measures made the new England ships fast and highly maneuverable. In 1588 they were tested against the Spanish Armada. Hawkins was the Rear Admiral, one of three main commanders of the English fleet against the Armada, alongside Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher. Hawkins’ flagship was Victory. Hawkins may have organised the fire-ship attacks at Calais. For his role in the great sea battle, Hawkins was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

After the defeat of the Armada, Hawkins urged the seizure of Philip II's colonial treasure, in order to stop Spain re-arming. In 1589, Hawkins sailed with Francis Drake in a massive military operation (the Drake & Norris Expedition). One of its goals was to try to intercept the Spanish treasure ships departing from Mexico. This voyage failed, but the idea led many other English pirates to make similar attempts and others were successful.

Charity[edit]

The Hospital of Sir John Hawkins Knight in Chatham

In 1590 Drake and Hawkins founded a charity for the relief of sick and elderly mariners. In 1592, they founded a hospital to care for mariners, and a second in 1594 in Chatham; the hospital was named for Hawkins. The charity continues today, and the terms of the Elizabethan charter have been broadened. Almshouse accommodation in High Street Chatham on the border with Rochester may be granted by the Governors to a needy or disabled man or woman who has served in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, WRNS, Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, or who has been employed in the Royal Dockyards in the construction, repair, maintenance or re-fitting of RN vessels. Under the broader charter, persons who served in the Merchant Navy, the Army, or the Royal Air Force, or who saw active service in the Reserve Forces, may apply. The spouses or dependents of those named above may also be considered.

Potatoes, tobacco and sharks[edit]

Hawkins was recorded as first importing potatoes to Ireland from the Spanish colonies in either 1563 or 1565 (sources differ).[citation needed] Some scholars suggest that Hawkins also introduced tobacco from the New World to England. Some accounts say this was in 1564, others in 1569. The former is more likely, since he mentions "tobacco" in his journals of the second voyage.

The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word "shark" appears to have been introduced by Hawkins' sailors, who brought one of the large predators back and exhibited it in London in 1569. The derivation for the word is believed to be from xoc, the word for "fish" in a Mayan language spoken in Yucatán.[6]

Death[edit]

In 1595 Hawkins accompanied his second cousin Sir Francis Drake on a treasure-hunting voyage to the West Indies. They twice attacked San Juan in Puerto Rico, but could not defeat its defenses. During the voyage they both fell sick. Hawkins died at sea off Puerto Rico. Drake succumbed to disease, most likely dysentery, on 27 January. He was buried at sea somewhere off the coast of Porto Belo. Hawkins was succeeded by his son Sir Richard Hawkins.

John Hawkins gained notice again in June 2006, almost four and a half centuries after his death, when his descendant Andrew Hawkins publicly apologized for his ancestor's actions in the slave trade.[7]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Morgan 2004.
  2. ^ The Slave Trade and Abolition: Timeline, English Heritage Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  3. ^ Africans in British History, Retrieved 28 November 2013/
  4. ^ Saignes, Miguel (1967). Vida de los esclavos negros en Venezuela. Hesperides lccn=68070476.  p. 60
  5. ^ Herman, Arthur (2004). To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-340-73419-1.  p. 103
  6. ^ Breaking the Maya Code: Revised Edition by Michael D. Coe, 1999
  7. ^ "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 

References[edit]

Attribution

Further reading[edit]

  • Davis, Bertram. Proof of Eminence : The Life of Sir John Hawkins. Indiana University Press. 1973
  • Hazlewood, Nick. The Queen's Slave Trader: John Hawkyns, Elizabeth I, and the Trafficking in Human Souls. HarperCollins Books, New York, 2004. ISBN 0-06-621089-5.
  • The African Slave Trade and Its Suppression: A Classified and Annotated Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Articles, annotated by Peter C. Hogg (editor), Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., Abingdon, Oxon, England; and Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., New York (1973), ISBN 0-7146-2775-5 . Transferred to Digital Printing 2006
  • Kelsey, Harry. Sir John Hawkins, Queen Elizabeth´s Slave Trader, Yale University Press, 384 pages, (April 2003), ISBN 978-0-300-09663-7
  • Unwin, Rayner. The Defeat of John Hawkins: A Biography of His Third Slaving Voyage. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1960; New York: Macmillan, 1960.
  • Walling, R.A.J. A Sea-Dog of Devon: a Life of Sir John Hawkins. 1907.
  • Williamson, James. Hawkins of Plymouth: a new History of Sir John Hawkins. 1969.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Benjamin Gonson
Treasurer of the Navy
1577–1595
(jointly with Benjamin Gonson, 1577)
Succeeded by
Fulk Greville