“Dreams of Liberation” from Chapter One of  American Slavery, American Freedom (1975)  by Edmund S. Morgan

 

         Virginia gained its name in 1585 when Sir Walter Raleigh sponsored an attempt by Englishmen to settle in America. Raleigh's colony, the famous lost colony of Roanoke, was the starting point of Virginia's history. It was a false start, and the next attempt, at Jamestown in 1607, was made under different auspices, by men who had learned something from Raleigh's failure.But Raleigh's venture was an end as well as a beginning, and its failure was a greater failure than can be found in the romantic story of the band of colonists who disappeared. [Raleigh's Dream] Roanoke was the failure of a dream; a dream on the verge of becoming reality, a dream in which slavery and freedom were not yet married, a dream in which Protestant Britons liberated the oppressed people of the New World from the slavery that the papist Spaniard had imposed on them.


            Perhaps it was no more than a dream. Perhaps it could never have come to pass, and perhaps no one really intended that it should. No one spelled it out, and only the outlines can be recovered today. But we may understand a little better what Virginians did after 1607 if we know what their predecessors thought of doing in the New World but failed to accomplish.What they thought of doing was to save themselves and the rest of mankind from the tyrannous Spaniard. And no people were more in need of saving than those in the New World. For by the time Englishmen began to think about their own role in America, half a century after Columbus, Spain had overrun the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and much of South America. The story of the Spanish conquest had been widely told, and even in the Spaniards' own accounts it was a horror story. (7) They had found in the New World, they said, the most loving and lovable human beings ever seen. They had also, to be sure, found some cannibals, who met them with showers of poisoned arrows. But it was not the cannibals whom the Spaniards first enslaved and destroyed; it was the kindly Arawaks whom Columbus found on Hispaniola. There were great numbers of them (the most recent modern estimate places the population of the island at about eight million at the time of discovery); and the Spanish, while admiring their simplicity and generosity, put them to work with a ruthlessness that (along with European diseases) eventuated in their virtual extermination. A half century after Columbus there were no more than two hundred Arawaks left on Hispaniola. (8)

 

            In the rest of Spanish America the story was much the same: the natives were reduced to a species of slavery or serfdom and declined in numbers catastrophically. In their place the Spanish brought in slaves of other regions, especially Africa. As the story spread through Europe in the wondering pages of the Spanish chronicler Peter Martyr and in the withering pages of the Dominican friar Bartolome de Las Casas, it added new dimensions to the traditional European image of Spanish cruelty.

 

            Mid-century Englishmen were already experiencing what they took to be a taste of that cruelty at home. [Bloody Mary] In 1553 the Protestant boy king Edward VI had died and was succeeded by his Catholic sister Mary, who promptly married Philip, the future king of Spain. There followed the series of martyrdoms and exiles that gave to English Protestants their undying hatred of Mary and of everything Spanish. From exile on the Continent Protestant spokesmen called for the queen's head and expounded radical theories of the right of a people to judge their rulers. One of the most forceful expositories made the connection between what was happening to Englishmen at home and what was happening to the Indians in the New World.

 

            John Ponet, who had once been bishop of Winchester, offered his countrymen a multitude of examples from the Bible and from ancient history of people who had rightly resisted wicked rulers. But he also interspersed a few pointed modern references, as of the wicked, idolatrous Prince Eglon, who brought in as his advisers many Ammonites and Amalekites, two kinds of people in beggerly pride and filthiness of life much like to the common nature of Italians and Spaniardes. And when Ponet needed an example of the woeful consequences of monarchs who treated their subjects as slaves, he found it in Spain's New World empire. Borrowing from Peter Martyr, he told how the natives of the West Indies, when the Spaniards came, "were simple and plain men, and lived without great labour." The Spaniards in their lust for gold

 

forced the people (that were not used to labour) to stande all the daie in the hotte sunne gathering golde in the sande of the rivers. By this meanes a great nombre of them (not used to such paines) died, and a great numbre of them (seeing themselves brought from so quiet a life to such miserie and slaverie) of desperacion killed them selves. And many wolde not mary, bicause they wolde not have their children slaves to the Spaniardes.

 

Englishmen, Ponet suggested, would not be so patient. Mary Tudor should remember that she ruled over "a bodie of free men and not of bondemen" and that she could not "geve or sell them as slaves and bondemen" (9) England held no slaves.

 

            After Elizabeth succeeded Mary on the English throne in 1558, English Protestants no longer felt it necessary or politic to direct such warnings to their monarch. But they retained a sympathy for the American victims of Spanish oppression. The riches that Spain drew from slave labor in the New World had helped to make her the greatest power in the Old World, strong enough perhaps to overrun Europe and saddle people there with the same slavery that the Indians were suffering. In addition, Spain's aggressive Catholicism posed a challenge to all Protestants. Any blow struck against her in the New World could be viewed as a blow for truth as well as freedom.

 

            The situation invited men to think of a strategy that might bring freedom to the New World and at the  same time relieve the Old World of the Spanish threat. Such a strategy did develop. And as has often been the case in the history of freedom, it took its rise almost accidentally out of a shady enterprise for private profit. It began with the activities of John Hawkins of Plymouth, a man of doubtful righteousness but undoubted daring, who had learned of the demand for African slaves in Spanish America. Although the Portuguese forbade English trade in Africa and the Spanish forbade it in the New World, Hawkins in three separate voyages bought, stole, and captured slaves from the coast of Guinea and carried them to the Spanish Main, where he was able to frighten the authorities into letting him sell them. During the last voyage, on which he was accompanied by Francis Drake, the Spanish made a surprise attack on his fleet of six ships, lying at anchor in the port of San Juan de Ulna in Mexico. After a fiery battle in the harbor, he and Drake were able to make their escape in separate ships, but with the loss of the other ships and of three hundred of the four hundred men. Hawkins regarded the attack as treachery, coming as it did after a solemn agreement, with hostages given on both sides. If English seamen had needed an excuse for piracy against Spain, they now had it. And foremost of those who seized the excuse was Francis Drake. (10)

 

            There is no denying that Francis Drake was a pirate and that the enterprise he conducted four years later in Panama was highway robbery, or at best, high jacking. But it was on the scale that transforms crime into politics. Nearly half a century later, Drake's friend Walter Raleigh, waiting trial in the Tower of London, put the case with his usual succinctness. Raleigh had admitted to the Lord Chancellor of England that he would have taken the whole Spanish treasure fleet on the high seas in a recent voyage, if he could only have found it. "Why then," said the Chancellor, "you would have ben a pyrate." "Oh," replied Raleigh, still regretting the lost opportunity, "did you ever knowe of any that were pyratts for millions? They that risk for small things are pyratts." (11)  If a man can steal an empire, he becomes, not a thief, but an emperor. If a pirate captures a large enough prize, he may be transformed into a statesman. Francis Drake was not above taking small prizes, but in 1572 he was after a large one, the Spanish treasure from Peru that was carried by mule train across the Isthmus of Panama to the town of Nombre de Dios on the Caribbean side. The surprising thing is not that he got it, or as much of it as he could carry away, but the method by which he succeeded, a method that made him, perhaps not a statesman, but something close to a revolutionary. (12)

 

            Drake had apparently been to the coast of Panama before 1572 and knew his way around. He also knew that the Spanish fleet loaded the treasure of Peru for the last leg of the voyage to Spain at Nombre de Dios. But he evidently did not know at what time of year the shipments were made, for when he arrived the gold was not there. After holding the town for a few hours, he was forced back to his ships, leaving the governor with a message advising him
 

to hold open his eyes, for before hee departed, if God lent him life and leave, hee meant to reape some of their Harvest, which they get out of the Earth, and send into Spaine to trouble all the Earth. (13)

 

The exaltation of large-scale theft is already evident in the message. And while he waited for the treasure to arrive, engaging in petty piracy of coastal vessels, Drake added a new, political dimension to his enterprise. Going ashore, he made contact with an extraordinary group of men, the Cimarrons, described as "certaine valiant Negros fled from their cruel masters the Spaniards." (14)

 

            Now, Drake had been a slaver. He and John Hawkins had had no scruples about carrying on the trade and had even managed a certain amount of righteous indignation at Portuguese and Spanish efforts to bar them from it. It seems unlikely that an alliance with the Cimarron had been a part of Drake's original plan in going to Panama or that it derived from any moral or philosophical objection to slavery. If his first attack on Nombre de Dios had netted him the treasure he was seeking, he would have had no occasion to linger in the country. But Drake had time on his hands, and he and the Cimarron evidently took to one another or recognized that they had common or complementary interests.

 

            The Cimarrons were no fearful little band of fugitives. The officials at Nombre de Dios estimated their numbers at more than 3,000. (15) From their principal settlement at Vallano, thirty leagues below Nombre de Dios, they organized periodic raids on the Spanish settlements, carrying off more of their people. They had already threatened to burn both Nombre de Dios and Panama. And when the Spanish prepared to send an expedition against them, they constructed a gallows on the road to Vallano and sent messages saying that "on that gallows they were going to hang the captain and cut off the heads of all who accompanied him," (16) an undertaking in which, however, they were unsuccessful. The Cimarrons evidently welcomed Drake as an ally and agreed to assist him in waylaying the pack train that carried the treasure from the Pacific to Nombre de Dios. Cimarrons infiltrated the town of Panama and learned the time of departure; then a picked force of Cimarrons and English, along with some French Huguenot pirates, waited in ambush. Though the first attempt failed, when the allies attacked the vanguard of the train too soon (allowing the main body to retreat to Panama City), on the second try they succeeded and came off with a small fortune in gold and silver.

 

            Just how far Drake intended to go with the alliance is impossible to say, for he never said himself. The Spanish authorities in Panama, however, had no doubt. 

 

"We hold it certain," they reported, "that the principal design of these English is to explore and study this land, and what strength there is in it, in order to come from England with more people to plunder and occupy it." (17)

 

Drake and his lieutenant, John Oxenham, may not have been so ambitious, but they certainly did not mean to leave the Spanish in unmolested possession. In the days while they waited for the passage of the pack train, their Cimarron friends had taken them to a lookout atop a tree on a high ridge that overlooked both the Atlantic and the Pacific. It was Drake's first sight of the Pacific, and "hee besought Almightie God of his goodnesse to give him life and leave to sayle once in an English Ship in that sea." Oxenham vowed that "he would follow him by Gods grace." (18)

 

            The Spanish had already envisaged that the English with the help of the Cimarron would reach the Pacific and prey on the unprotected ships that carried the treasure from Peru to Panama. (19)  But this, as the Spanish saw it, was only the beginning. Nombre de Dios, one official announced "is as good as lost." (20) And a prisoner taken by the Spanish assured them that the pirates had promised the Cimarrons to sack the city "and deliver to them what Spanish inhabitants, men and women, it may have, to be their slaves." (21)

 

            The Spanish were more fearful than they need have been. When Drake departed, loaded with gold and silver, he had made no further attack on Nombre de Dios.But neither had he closed the books on his alliance with the Cimarrons. [John Oxenham's Dream] Three years later John Oxenham was back on the isthmus with fifty men. On the Atlantic side he unloaded a cargo of supplies for the Cimarrons, then stripped the rigging from his ship and beached and burned her to extract the hardware. He and his men with the help of the Cimarrons carried everything to Vallano and there, close to the Pacific, built and rigged a ship forty-five feet long in the keel. By February, 1577, guided by the Cimarrons, Oxenham was raiding Spanish shipping from Peru and Spanish settlements on the Pearl Islands. The raiders collected all the gold, silver, and jewels they could lay their hands on, liberated seventy slaves, who were turned over to the Cimarrons, and took pains to desecrate the papist churches, smashing images, altars, and crucifixes. (22)

 

            The English, it seems, had now begun to indoctrinate the Cimarrons with a hatred of Catholicism that added yet another dimension to the alliance. The Spanish reported that the Cimarrons had become as ardent "Lutherans" (the Spanish word for all Protestants) as the English. (23)  They joined with delight in the destruction of Catholic insignia, crying, "I, English; pure Lutheran," and even exhorted their victims "not to believe in the Holy Trinity nor in Our Lady, Holy Mary, declaring that there was only one God." (24)

 

            Once again the Spanish feared the worst. Oxenham, they were sure, had been sent by his queen and planned to "make himself master of all this realm." (25) With Cimarron support there would be no stopping him. But if Oxenham had any such plans, they came to an end when a Spanish force captured him and carried him to Lima. There he was hanged, and every known Englishman in his expedition was eventually hunted down and killed or captured. The Spanish breathed a sigh of relief, convinced that if the English had escaped "they would have returned in such strength that, aided by the negroes, they would have become masters of the Pacific, which God forbid, for this is the key to all Peru." (26)

 

            Whether the English, with the assistance of the Cimarrons, could have ousted the Spanish from the isthmus is open to doubt. What gives the Cimarron alliance significance is not its success or failure but the light it sheds on the English view of themselves and of their role in the New World. In spite of the fact that Drake had engaged in the slave trade, in spite of the fact that the English in Ireland were at that very moment subjecting the natives to a treatment not much different from what the Indians of Hispaniola received from Columbus, the English in Panama had cast themselves as liberators and had allied with blacks against whites. They had taught the Cimarrons their own religious views and engaged them in piracy and pillage flavored with righteousness and revolution. The alliance seems to have been untroubled by racial prejudice. To be sure, the English were scarcely in a position to assume airs of superiority, but the accounts suggest a camaraderie that went beyond the mutual benefits of the alliance. When the Spanish caught up with them, they were camped together on a riverbank where they had stretched a canvas awning for shade and "were cooking a quantity of pork in kettles and amusing themselves together." (27)

 

            The Spanish were far from amused by the combination. They knew there was no reason why the English should confine their appeal to blacks. The Cimarron were not the only oppressed peoples in the Spanish dominions who might become willing allies. Indeed, Drake was already making contact with some. While Oxenham was launching his English ship in the Pacific, Drake was preparing for his voyage around the world, and by early in 1578 was cruising down the east coast of South America. There at every pause his chaplain, Francis Fletcher, recorded the good nature of the natives and the sadness of their subjugation. Whenever the expedition met with hostile reactions, he interpreted these as a result of the Indians' assumption that all white men were Spaniards or Portuguese. Where it was possible to strike up relations with the natives he found them charming. "How grievous a thing it is," he exclaimed, "that they should by any meanes be so abused as all those are, whom the Spaniards have any command or power over." (28)

 

            Drake's voyage round the world was partly a pirate cruise, but it was almost on the scale of piracy for millions. Drake brought back perhaps half a million; and if he had reached Peru before Oxenham was captured, he might conceivably have stolen part of an empire as well, for he had a Cimarron aboard and may have planned to join forces with Oxenham at Panama. (29) The queen of England refrained from outright endorsement of Drake's depredations and sequestered most of the loot he brought back. But even though Spain loudly demanded the return of the stolen goods, Elizabeth hung on to them and rewarded Drake with a knighthood. His success had transformed him automatically into something of a statesman. While Elizabeth could not yet risk outright war with Spain, Drake had made himself England's unofficial ambassador to Spain's most formidable New World enemies, the Cimarrons, and he stood publicly as the friend of all who suffered under Spanish rule. We may ask how sincere his friendship could be or how genuine could be an alliance with rebels that aimed at large-scale theft. But alliances dignified under solemn treaties have often had no larger aim; and friendships between different peoples have seldom extended beyond mutual interest. The real question was whether the English could have or would have offered the Cimarrons and other victims of Spanish masters the kind of freedom that Englishmen at home were beginning to pride themselves on.

 

            In revulsion from their oppression under Mary and in the glow of their enthusiasm for Elizabeth, some Englishmen were ready to think of English freedom in global terms. Two in particular, who both bore the name of Richard Hakluyt had begun to urge their countrymen to bring the blessings of English rule overseas and to bring to England the riches that could be found not only in New Spain but elsewhere in the wide world. Neither of the Hakluyts ever took an ocean voyage. One was an undistinguished lawyer; the other, his younger cousin and protégé, was an undistinguished clergyman, who devoted his days more to geography than to God. (30) Neither stood close to the centers of power. But both were sure that England needed more of the world and that the world needed England. The younger Hakluyt was the more ardent of the two, and his great achievement was a monumental collection of narratives describing English voyages throughout the world, The Principal Navigations of the English Nation. (31) Though the first edition was not published until 1589 and the much enlarged second edition not until 1600, the compilation reveals the direction in which the exploits of a Drake and Oxenham were turning the thoughts of the Hakluyts and other Englishmen by the 1570s and 1580s.

 

            The Principal Navigations was in fact a triumph of creative editing, a polemic in the form of a collection of documents. By his massive accumulation of texts, Hakluyt was able to present his countrymen with a record of persistent and pervasive overseas accomplishments that had taken place during years when the English had been in fact running considerably behind the Spanish and the Portuguese. The object was not so much to give the English pride in their past as to spur them to greater ventures overseas. Hakluyt's effort was comparable to what English parliamentarians were at the same time doing on behalf of political liberty. Modern freedom may be considered in large measure an English invention, and some of the principal inventors were scholars who scoured the past for precedents to magnify the power of the House of Commons. The precedents that they found were often of dubious historical validity, but Parliament's insistence on them turned them into bulwarks of Parliamentary privilege and popular rights and made the arbitrary rule of an absolute monarch impossible in England. Similarly Hakluyt—in order to magnify England's global power—drew precedents from the past, some of which were of equally doubtful validity. He did not resort to doctoring his texts to suit his intentions. He maintained standards of editorial accuracy far above those that prevailed at the time. Nor did he exclude narratives that shed no glory on his countrymen. He never lost the scholar's passion for inclusiveness, but he could use inclusiveness to his own purposes. By adopting generous criteria of relevance, he was able to present documents which imparted to the whole book a powerful suggestion that Englishmen ought to rule the world they had discovered.

 

            Although Hakluyt devoted the great bulk of the book to the spectacular voyages that had taken place in his own lifetime, he put the reader in a receptive frame of mind by leading him first through the semi-mythical exploits of earlier Englishmen in subduing a large part of the narrower world known to earlier generations. In the opening pages was the inspiring example of King Arthur, for whom "This kingdome was too little ... and his minde was not contented with it," wherefore he had taken over Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and other northern countries where the people "were wild and savage, and had not in them the love of God nor of their neighbors." (32)  And then there was King Edgar, who had yearly sailed with a navy of 4,000 ships round an empire (the boundaries not specified) which Englishmen might yet be able to "recover and enjoy." (33) The famous 1436 poem on sea power, The Libelle of Englyshe Policye, which Hakluyt included in full, showed how to go about the recovery by urging Englishmen "to make this land have lordship of the sea." (34) There were precedents for expansion too in Chaucer's description of the knights who “were wont in his time to travaile into Prussia and Lettowe [Latvia], and other heathen lands, to advance the Christian faith against Infidels and miscreants, and to seeke honour by feats of arms." (35)  And there was perhaps a lesson to be learned even in the chronicle of John de Plano Carpini concerning the savage tyranny of the Tartars over the barbarous people of northern Asia, so unlike the free and Christian governance of England's kings. (36)

 

            [Hakluyt's Plan] Like other imperialists, Hakluyt was convinced that the world would be better off under his country's dominion, and indeed that all good people would welcome it. Who would not gladly abandon the tyranny of Spain for the benevolence, the freedom of English rule? The thought occurred to Hakluyt when he heard of Drake's alliance with the Cimarrons, and it prompted his first plans for an English colony overseas. In 1579 or 1580, while Drake was completing his circumnavigation, Hakluyt proposed that the English seize the Straits of Magellan, the gateway to the Pacific, and plant a colony there. Empire was clearly the object, but the means lay in the freedom from tyranny and slavery that England's brand of government would offer to the colonists, who were to be principally Cimarrons. The Cimarrons, Hakluyt said, were “a people detesting the prowde governance of the Spanyards." Because of their trust in Drake, they would gladly move to the straits, by the hundreds or thousands. There they would "easily be induced to live subject to the gentle government of the English." The colony would be easy to sustain because the Spaniard was too effeminate to endure the harsh climate of the straits, whereas the Cimarron, bred "in all toyle farre from delicacie,” would think himself happy there,

 

when as by good provision he shal find himselfe plentifully fed, warmly clothed, and well lodged and by our nation made free from the tyrannous Spanyard, and quietly and courteously governed by our nation. (37)

 

With the assistance of the Cimarrons, who would be led by English captains, and with a good navy, England could roll up the Pacific coast of South America and "make subjecte to England all the golden mines of Peru." (37)

 

            The Cimarron need not be the only people to benefit from settlement in the straits colony. Hakluyt thought it might also include "condemned Englise men and women, in whom there may be founde hope of amendement." (38) Emigration would provide a second chance for these unfortunates. Hakluyt's scheme, like Drake's actual alliance with the Cimarrons, shows no sign of racial prejudice, unless in this assignment of English criminals to a place alongside the Cimarrons. That the colonists would enjoy the freedom of Englishmen is suggested in Hakluyt's admission that they might ultimately become independent. "Admit," he said,

 

... that the English there would aspire to governement of themselves, yet were it better that it sholde be soe then that the Spanyard shold with the treasure of that countrey torment all the contries of Europe. (39)


He did not say that the Cimarrons would share in the aspiration for self-government, but neither did he suggest that they would be held in any kind of bondage. And indeed the voluntary immigration he envisaged for them would seem to preclude any such intention.

 

            England did not pursue Hakluyt's proposal, but by the time he made it, in 1579 or 1580, colonization was in the air. And Raleigh's Roanoke colony was only five years off. In that venture Drake and Hakluyt were both to be closely involved. Some of the preconceptions they brought to the enterprise should by now be evident. But the experience gained by Drake and other corsairs in the Caribbean was not the only experience available to guide the Roanoke colonists. While Drake and Oxenham were probing the Spanish empire close to its center, another set of Englishmen farther north in the New World had been serving a somewhat different apprenticeship for colonization.    

 

            If the Spanish had thought the continent north of Florida worth having, they would probably have taken it. They traveled through it to see what was there, on expeditions that measured their own endurance as much as the resources of the continent. What they saw did not tempt them; and though they worried about other European countries gaining a foothold in the area, they left it unoccupied north of Florida. Englishmen, partly because they had sponsored John Cabot's voyage to North America in 1497, partly because of their own northern location, and partly because the Spanish were not there, came to think of the northern continent as their part of the New World. (40) They wanted to find a passage to the Pacific through it or above it, but by the 1570s they also thought of occupying it. To do so, they would have to establish some sort of relations with the natives. Since the northern Indians had not suffered at the hands of the Spaniard, they would not require liberation and might not even welcome English dominion. How then to approach them?

 

            In the pages of Peter Martyr, Englishmen read how the Spanish had done it in the south. It was apparent in Peter Martyr's account that the New World contained two kinds of Indians. There were the friendly, tractable peoples like the Arawaks whom Columbus had found on Hispaniola; and there were hostile, unlovely peoples like the Cannibals (a variation of "Carib") whom Columbus had found on several other Caribbean islands, and whose name was given by subsequent explorers to virtually every unfriendly tribe, whether on the islands or the mainland. The good Indians, by definition, hated the Cannibals and welcomed the assistance of the Spaniards against them. And with the assistance of the good Indians a handful of Spaniards had taken over the populous empires of Montezuma and of the Incas. (41)

 

            Supposedly the principal characteristic of the Cannibals was the one to which the western world has ever since applied their name. But their most visible characteristic was hostility to invaders. In the Spanish accounts there are scarcely any eyewitness reports of someone actually eating human flesh, but there are numerous accounts of hostile tribes, whom the invaders immediately identify as Cannibals. When Englishmen thought about occupying North America, they expected that they would find both kinds of Indians there too and that the good ones would welcome assistance against the bad. English assistance would, of course, bring them gentle English government and would, of course, be preferable to the tyranny of the bad tribes.

 

            The first large-scale English attempt to establish a colony in North America took place in an area so bleak that it supported few native inhabitants at all, and what few there were seemed to be of the wrong kind. Martin Frobisher, in search of a northwest passage to the Pacific, found on an island near Baffin Land a quantity of ore that assayers in England pronounced to be gold. He also found a people who failed to welcome him with the cordiality proper to good Indians. Moreover, five of his men disappeared among them, presumably down their throats. When Frobisher returned to Baffin Land with a large-scale expedition of eleven ships, he did not count on friendly relations with the natives, nor did he count on their labor to help him load his ships with ore. Instead, he came provided with soldiers and settlers to seize the land, dig out the ore, and establish a permanent gold-mining colony. Frobisher's plans for a colony expired when the two hundred tons of ore he brought back to England turned out to be fool's gold. He never indicated what place the Indians would have had in his settlement if he had been successful; but he gave a hint of how gentle his government might have been when on his first voyage he enticed one man in a kayak close to his ship and then, seizing him by the arm, pulled him aboard, kayak and all, and carried him home to show the queen. This was hardly the way that Drake had dealt with the Cimarrons. (42)

 

            It was, however, akin to the way Englishmen had behaved in another land where the natives proved unfriendly. (43) The wild Irish had no poisoned arrows and could not put up an effective resistance against invaders. Perhaps for that reason the English who subdued them in the sixteenth century did not generally call them cannibals. But the Irish, like the Eskimos, were clearly the wrong kind of people. In the English view they were barbarous, only nominally Christian, and generally intractable. The English therefore made no attempt to find a good set of them to ally with. The Irish could become good, that is, civil and Christian, only by submission. Those who chose not to submit could be exterminated and replaced by more deserving settlers from England. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who won his knighthood by subduing the Irish, himself proposed a colony that would bring peace and prosperity to Ireland by replacing rebellious Irish with Englishmen. (45) It did not augur well for English relations with the Indians of North America that Gilbert was to transfer his interest from Ireland to the New World.

 

            When he did, after Frobisher's failure, he had in view a location well to the south of the area abandoned by Frobisher. Gilbert had in mind a permanent settlement of Englishmen that would serve many different purposes, among them a base for piracy against the Spanish. [Gilbert's New World plan] Gilbert, by promising investors princely domains in the New World, was able to gather about him a group of associates to finance the immigration of English laborers and beggars. These poor wretches, like the felons in Hakluyt's proposed straits colony, might be redeemed by the economic opportunities available in the new land, and at the same time their labor in the colony would enrich the gentlemen who backed them. (46)

 

            Although Queen Elizabeth granted Gilbert a charter that allowed him to hand out American land to investors, he had to consider the question of how to deal with the current owners or occupiers of it. There was no reason to suppose that the temperate regions of North America were less densely populated than the tropics. And to achieve a military conquest of the natives as he had done in Ireland might require more men and longer supply lines than he could manage without government financing. It would be wiser and safer to follow the Spanish practice of alliance with good Indians against bad. Such was the advice that the elder Hakluyt gave Gilbert. Nothing was more important, he said, than to get on good terms with the Indians of the area where the settlement was made. In this way the English would learn "all their wantes, all their strengthes, all their weaknesse, and with whome they are in warre, and with whome confiderate in peace and amitie." (47) If the Indians on the coast were hostile, this need not impair the strategy. The first settlement should be at the mouth of a river, preferably on an island, which could be fortified. Then if the neighboring Indians proved to be of the cannibal type, the English could send an expedition up the river or along the coast to make contact with the right kind. (48)

 

            Gilbert confirmed the desirability of this strategy by questioning David Ingram, an Englishman who had survived the battle at San Juan de Ulna. He had been put ashore near there and, so he claimed at least, had walked through the continent to Nova Scotia, where he picked up a ride home in a fishing boat. According to Ingram, North America was full of Indians at war with one another, and the most feared were the Cannibals, "whose foode is mans flesh, and have teeth like dogges, and doo pursue them with ravenous myndes to eate theyr flesh, and devoure them." It was not to be doubted that good Indians pursued by Cannibals would welcome the protection of the English and gratefully give up to them "such competent quantity of Lande, as every way shall be correspondent to the Christians expectation, and contentation.” (49)

 

            Nor was it to be doubted that the good Indians would work for the English in producing whatever commodities the country afforded. Drake, confining himself to pillage, had not been obliged to think about getting work out of anybody other than the men who manned his ships, and the compulsion available to a captain aboard ship has always been extraordinary. Hakluyt had not really confronted the question of work in the colony he proposed for the Straits of Magellan. Frobisher had brought along paid English labor, and his colony had not lasted long enough to establish relations with the natives.[Labor]  In planning for labor, therefore, Gilbert had little to go on except the Spanish example, and that he rejected. Gilbert did not count on discovering gold or silver. Though he naturally hoped for treasure, and hoped also to find a northwest passage, he envisaged a settlement in which men would "manure," that is, cultivate the soil and engage in the production of ordinary commodities, either those that the country afforded naturally or those that human ingenuity could extract from it: furs, fish, dyestuffs, lumber, and who knew what else. Hakluyt had assured him that however barren the land might appear, “every soyle of the world by arte may be made to yeelde things to feede and to cloth men.” (50) In thinking about the labor needed to make the earth yield its fruits, Gilbert and his associates had decided to employ both Englishmen and Indians. In both cases, they reasoned, all the inducement needed was the comfort that well-directed work would purchase.

 

          Christopher Carleill, an enthusiastic supporter, reported how good-for-nothing English beggars had become new men when given a job to do in the English army in the Netherlands. 51 If such paupers were shipped to North America, they would surely have more to do and a better life than in the army. Similarly the Indians, who now eked out a savage existence without proper clothing or housing, would be transformed by the material comforts of civilization and the spiritual comforts of Christianity. Sir George Peckham, who intended to sponsor a special community within the colony, believed that the Indians "so soone as they shall begin but a little to taste of civillitie, will take mervailous delight in any garment be it never so simple." (52) And the demand for the trappings of civility would turn them from the indolent manner of living in which they allegedly gathered from the land only what "the ground of itself' dooth naturally yeelde." (53) When instructed by the English, they would understand "how the tenth pan of their land may be so manured and emploied, as it may yeeld more commodities to the necessary use of mans life, then the whole now dooth." (54) As a result they would

 

by little and little forsake their barbarous and savage living, and growe to such order and civilitie with us, as there may be well expected from thence no lesse quantitie and diversitie of merchandize then is now had out of Dutchland, Italic, France or Spaine. (55)

           

             It was a blueprint for Utopia: English benefactors living side by side with Indian beneficiaries, both enjoying new comforts in peace and prosperity, with the Cannibals expelled to some outer region. Indeed, if we turn to Utopia itself, we find that Sir Thomas More had envisaged nothing better in his ideal state, when he described the Utopian manner of colonization:

 

... they enroll citizens out of every city [in Utopia] and, on the mainland nearest them, wherever the natives have much unoccupied and uncultivated land, they found a colony under their own laws. They join with themselves the natives if they are willing to dwell with them. When such a union takes place, the two parties gradually and easily merge and together absorb the same way of life and the same customs, much to the great advantage of both peoples. By their procedures they make the land sufficient for both, which previously seemed poor and barren to the natives. The inhabitants who refuse to live according to their laws, they drive from the territory which they carve out for themselves. If they resist, they wage war against them. They consider it a most just cause for war when a people which does not use its soil but keeps it idle and waste nevertheless forbids the use and possession of it to others who by the rule of nature ought to be maintained by it. (56)

 

            Gilbert, like the Utopians, was probably prepared to expel uncooperative savages from unworked land that they would not part with. Sir George Peckham ventured his own opinion: "I doo verily think that God did create lande, to the end that it shold by Culture and husbandrie, things necessary for yeeldmans lyfe.” (57) The Indians, then, were expected to give their land willingly and willingly to work under English guidance. But land could rightly be taken, even in Utopia, from those who did not work it.

 

            Work came first, property rights second. And where did freedom come? What if the Indians refused the enticements of civility and refused to work for what they did not want? The Spanish on Hispaniola had considered and answered the question. In 1517 a team of Jeronymite friars had investigated the treatment of the remaining Indians there and concluded that it was justified because they would not work unless forced to. (58) "They must be made to work for Spain, as the Spanish government proclaimed in 1513, "to prevent their living in idleness." (59)  In Hispaniola work took precedence over freedom as well as property. Neither Gilbert nor More reached such a conclusion. More would simply have driven out the lazy natives. Gilbert and his friends probably would have taken the same course, but were never faced with the decision. After a preliminary reconnaissance of Newfoundland and the Gulf of Maine, Gilbert was lost at sea on the way home. His colony never got on the ground.

 

            [Morgan's conclusion] The Englishmen who finally settled North America would have to face the problem of unwilling workers, not only with regard to the natives but also with regard to the needy laborers they brought with them. But by 1583, when Gilbert’s ship went down, English plans for the New World did not include slavery or forced labor of any kind. The Cannibals, to be sure, would receive rough treatment; but those who would join with the English, whether the Cimarrons of the south or the good Indians of the north would enjoy gentle government, civility, Christianity, superior technology, and abundance. This was the point at which English experience and thinking about America had arrived when Walter Raleigh brought to convergence at Roanoke the southern experience of Drake, the northern plans of Gilbert, and the skilled guidance of the Hakluyts.






 

                (7) The Spanish account most readily available to Englishmen was Peter Martyr's De Orbo Novo, a running account by decades, which began to appear in print in 1511. The completed Eight Decades appeared in 1530. In 1555 Richard Eden published in London an English translation of the first half of the work under the title The Decades of the Newe Worlde or West India, which was reprinted with continuations and additional material under the same and other titles in subsequent years. The most sensational description of Spanish tyranny was by Bartolome de Las Casas, who wrote from his own experience in Hispaniola. Las Casas' major work, Historia de las Indian, remained in manuscript until 1875, but his Brevissinta relacion de la destruccion de las Indias was translated into English and published in London in 1583 as The Spanish Colonie; or, Briefe Chronicle of the Acts and Genes of the Spaniardes in the West Indies.

                (8) Sherburne F. Cook and Woodrow Borah, Essays in Population History: Mexico and the Caribbean, I (Berkeley, Calif., '97t), 376-410.

                (9) John Ponet, A Shorte Treatise of Politike Power (n.p., 1556), 69, 93,

94, 122.

                (10) James A. Williamson, Hawkins of Plymouth ( 2nd ed., London, 1969), is the best general account of Hawkins' voyages, though modified by Antonio Rumen de Armas, Los Viajes de John Hawkins a America (Seville, 1947). Contemporary English accounts are in Clements R. Markham, ed., The Hawkins Voyager, Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, at ser., VI (London, 1878). The Spanish accounts of Hawkins' activities have been translated and published in Irene A. Wright, ed., Spanish Documents concerning English Voyages to the Caribbean, 1517-1568, Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, and set., LXII (London, 1929), 60-162.

                (11) V. T. Harlow, ed., Ralegh's Last Voyage (London, 1932), 279.

                (12) All the documents on which the following account of Drake's voyage is based are in Irene A. Wright's extraordinary collection from Spanish archives, Documents concerning English Voyager to the Spanish Main, 1569-1580, Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, 2nd set, LXXI (London, 1932). Unless otherwise indicated, page references are to this volume, which also reprints the anonymous English account, Sir Francis Drake Revived (London, 628).

                (13) P. 268.            

                (14) P. 336.

                (15). P. 72.             

                (16) P. 10.              

                (17) Pp. 49-50.

                (18) P. 300.            

                (19) P. 52

                (20) Pp. 46-47.

                (21) P. 69.                              

                (22) Pp. 109-13.

                (23) Pp. 113-16.    

                (24) P. 120.

                (25) P. 113.            

                (26) P. 142.            

                (27) Pp. 132-33.

                (28) W. S. Vaux, ed., The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake; Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, at ser., XVI (London, 1854), 100.

                 (29) Kenneth R. Andrews, Drake's Voyages (New York, 1967), 42.

                (30) The best study is George B. Parks, Richard Hakluyt and the English Voyages, American Geographical Society, Special Publication No. 10 (New York, 19z8).

                (31) I have used the twelve-volume edition published at Glasgow, 1903. Volume and page numbers refer to this edition.

                (32) 1, 6.

                (33) 1, 6-24.           

                (34)  II, 131.           

                (35) L 307.

                (36) 1, 55-179.

                (37) E. G. R. Taylor, ed., The Original Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyt, Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, 2nd set, LXXVI, LXXVII (London, 1935), 142-43.

                (38) Ibid.

                (39) Ibid.

                (40) In the first edition of the Decades of the Newe Worlde, Richard Eden followed his translation of Peter Martyr with various accounts of the northern regions that urged their exploration and colonization. See ff. 253. 263-76, 318. See also Roger Barlow. A Briefe Summe of Geographie, E. G. R. Taylor, ed., Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, 2nd ser., LXIX (London, 1932), 180-82.

                (41) For a succinct, though later, English reading of the lesson to be learned from the Spanish conquest, see RVC, III, 558.

                (42). Collinson, ed., The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher, Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, 1st ser., XXXVIII (London, 1867). For a lively and authoritative account of the voyages of Frobisher and of other English explorers see Samuel Eliot Morison's incomparable The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages. A.D. 500-l600 (New York, 1971).

                (43) The significance of the English experience in Ireland for later experience in America has been extensively discussed by Howard M. Jones in Strange New World (New York, 1964), 167-79; by David B. Quinn in a number of works, especially "Ireland and Sixteenth-Century European Expansion," Historical Studies, I (1958), 20-32; and most recently by Nicholas P. Canny, "The Ideology of English Colonization: From Ireland to America," WMQ, 3rd ser., XXX (1973), 575-98. [Footnote Abbreviations will be found on pp. 383-93.]

                (44) "But there were English reports of the Irish eating dead bodies and of old women eating little children (Jones, Strange New World, 169), and Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, referred to the rebel leader Shane O'Neill as "that canyball" (Canny, "Ideology of English Colonization," 587).

                (45) David B. Quinn, ed., The Voyages and Colonizing Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, 2nd ser., LXXXIII, LXXXIV (London, ,938), I, 12-16, 118-128; II, 490-97.

                (46) Ibid., II, 245-78.            

                (47) Ibid., I, 182.

                (48) Ibid., 1, 81; cf. Taylor, Writings of the Hakluyts, II, 34s.

                (40) Quinn, Voyages of Gilbert, II, 452.

                (50) Ibid., I, 185.   

                (51) Ibid., II, 361.

                (52) Ibid., II, 461.

                (53) Ibid., II, 452-53.            

                (54) Ibid., II, 468.

                (55) Ibid., II, 357.

                (56)Thomas More, Utopia, Edward Surtz ed. (New Haven, 1964), 76.

                (57) Quinn, Voyages of Gilbert, II, 468.

                (58) Lewis Hanke, The First Social Experiments in America (Cambridge,

Mass., 1935), 26-39.

                (59)  Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of

America (Philadelphia, 1949), 25.