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SIR FRANCIS DRAKE
QUEEN ELIZABETH — POPULARLY known as "Good Queen Bess" — ascended the throne of England in 1558. Her reign was both magnificent and successful; and it added much to the greatness of the nation.
It was during Elizabeth's reign that England first became a great naval power; and among the men who helped to make her so, none were more famous than Sir Francis Drake.
There is some doubt about the date of Drake's birth. It is now generally believed that he was born in 1540, though some writers put the date at least five years earlier. The place of his birth was the little town of Tavistock, in Devonshire. He seems to have had a great love for the sea even when but a child.
His parents were too poor to help him into a good position, and so he began his career at sea as a cabin boy. But he had the merit of pluck; and he soon rose to the highest rank in the English navy.
In 1567 he went with his uncle Hawkins, who was one of the noted sailors of that day, on a slave-trading voyage to Africa and the West Indies. The experiences he met with at that time gave color to the rest of his life.
Being driven out of their course by storms, they were obliged to seek shelter in the harbor of San Juan de Ulua, a Spanish port on the coast of Mexico. There they were received with a show of kindness, but were afterwards attacked by a superior force, and only two vessels escaped.
After this act of treachery, Drake resolved to seize every opportunity to plunder the Spaniards and thus to make good the loss which he and his uncle had sustained.
In the years 1570–71 Drake made two other voyages to the West Indies for the purpose of becoming acquainted with the situation and strength of the Spanish settlements.
In 1572, he sailed again with two ships, one of seventy-five tons, the other of twenty-five. His plan was to capture the town of Nombre de Dios (nom' bra da dyos') on the Isthmus of Panama, which was the port from which the Spaniards shipped to Spain the gold and silver taken from the mines of Peru.
In the attempt to take this town Drake was severely wounded. He tried to conceal his hurt from his men; and they pressed onward into the town. But just as they reached the market place where they hoped to find the treasure, he fainted from loss of blood. His men at once carried him to his ship, and the enterprise was abandoned.
As soon as he was able to do so, he began to sail back and forth along the coast. He seized a large number of ships, and took from them a great amount of wealth both in money and goods.
He formed an alliance with a band of run-away slaves called Cimarrones (the ma ro' nes), and together they built a fort on a small island at the mouth of a river. There Drake and his men remained until February 3, 1573.
On that day Drake set out, with some Cimarrones as guides, to cross the Isthmus of Panama and gain his first view of the Pacific Ocean. Half way across the isthmus they led him to a tall tree standing on a central hill. Among the topmost branches of this tree there was a platform on which ten or twelve men might stand at ease. Drake climbed up to this platform, and was delighted to find that from his lofty perch he could see both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Drake returned to England in the fall of 1573, carrying much treasure which he divided with the strictest fairness among his followers. His own share was large enough to enable him to purchase three ships. With these he sailed to Ireland, and there, as a volunteer under the Earl of Essex, he "did most excellent service."
But Francis Drake is chiefly distinguished as the first Englishman who sailed round the world. In December, 1577, with five little vessels, about the size of those of Columbus, he sailed out of the harbor of Plymouth.
It took him seven months to reach Patagonia, and there he remained for about nine weeks. Two of his ships had become so leaky as to be unfit for further service, and he was compelled to abandon them. The crews and stores were taken on board the other vessels and the fleet started out to sail through Magellan Strait in order to reach the Pacific.
It was sixty years since Magellan had passed through the strait, but Drake's was the first English expedition to follow the great Portuguese navigator over this route.
While the vessels were in the strait, one of those terrific storms arose for which the region of Cape Horn is still noted. One ship called the Marigold was never heard of again, and the crew of the Elizabeth were so disheartened by the terrible weather that they put about and returned to England.
Although Drake was left with but a single ship he would not give up the voyage. He made his way into the Pacific, and sailed northward along the coasts of Chile and Peru.
The Spaniards had already established colonies on the western shores of South America. Santiago had been founded nearly forty years before, and Lima was already a town of considerable size.
As Spain and England were not friendly toward each other, it was thought perfectly right to capture Spanish vessels and to plunder Spanish towns; and Queen Elizabeth had given Drake a commission, signed with her own hand, authorizing him to do this.
After plundering a number of the Spanish settlements he pursued his voyage until he reached the western coast of North America. Finding that his ship was again in need of repairs, he landed for that purpose at a point which has since been named Drakes Bay, a little to the north of San Francisco Bay.
From California he sailed across the Pacific and visited the Spice Islands and Java. Leaving Java he crossed the Indian Ocean and passed around the Cape of Good Hope into the Atlantic. Then, steering northward, he made his way back to England, reaching home exactly two years and ten months after starting on the voyage.
On his arrival a banquet was prepared on board the ship in which he had thus sailed round the world. Queen Elizabeth was one of the guests. In honor of his achievement she knighted him on the deck of his ship, and it was in this way that he came to be called Sir Francis Drake.
The little vessel had been so battered by the storms through which it had passed that it was unfit for further service. But Elizabeth gave orders that it should be carefully preserved as a monument to its famous captain.
One hundred years later it was found that the timbers were badly decayed. It was then broken up. One piece of the wood, that was still sound, was made into a chair for King Charles II, who afterwards gave it to the University of Oxford, where it can still be seen.
DRAKE AT CADIZ
He was then at Lisbon with thirty English war ships under his command. He at once sailed for Cadiz, and, on arriving, he sent a fire-ship among the Spanish vessels, burned nearly a hundred of them, and escaped from the harbor unharmed.This delayed the sailing of the Spanish fleet for nearly a year, and when at length it approached the shores of England, Drake did more, perhaps, than any other man to bring about its overthrow.The Spaniards had collected about one hundred and thirty vessels of war, and more than fifty thousand men, and to this array they gave the proud title of the "Invincible Armada." Thirty-five thousand men were to land at the mouth of the River Thames and another large force was to land farther to the north. Then a third force threatened the west coast. In this way England was to be attacked at three different points at the same time.
DRAKE'S SHIPS RETURNING FROM CADIZ
The Spaniards thought that the English would be bewildered, and would surrender.
But all this great armament was not prepared without some news of it getting to England, and preparations were made to repel the foe.
Troops were collected at Tilbury ready to attack the Spaniards in case they succeeded in landing. The queen on horseback reviewed them, and made a stirring speech. The merchants of London and other ports offered their ships to be used as ships of war; the rich brought their treasures; the poor volunteered in the army and navy. Thus the coast was well guarded and the number of vessels in the fleet was increased from thirty to one hundred and eighty.
These carried about sixteen thousand men — not half the number on board the enemy's fleet — but they were sturdy English fighters. Howard was Lord High Admiral, and with him were Drake, Frobisher, and Hawkins, the most famous English mariners of the time.
One evening, late in July, 1588, beacon lights blazed all along the coast of the English Channel telling the news that the Spanish fleet was coming. Next morning, arranged in a crescent, the Armada moved up the Channel. Its line was seven miles long.
The English fleet sailed out from Plymouth. Its vessels were light, while those of the Spaniards were heavy, but more than this, the English ships were finely managed, and their guns were skillfully aimed, while most of the shots of the Spaniards went over the heads of the English.
The Spaniards tried to come to close quarters, but the English vessels were so steered that this could not be done. Day after day for a week the fighting continued.
The Spanish commander then led his fleet into the harbor of Calais on the French side of the Channel. He wished to get provisions and powder and shot. He also wished to get some small vessels — swift sailors — with which he might match the light ships of his adversaries.
The English fleet followed, but it would not be allowed by the French to attack the Spaniards in the harbor. To force them out into the open sea, the English turned eight of their oldest and poorest vessels into fireships. Tar, rosin and pitch were placed upon them. The masts and rigging were covered with pitch. Their guns were loaded; and thus, all ablaze, they were sent at midnight drifting into the harbor with wind and tide. This fire fleet did its work.
SPANISH SHIPS UNDER FIRE
It did not indeed fire any Spanish ship but it so alarmed the Spaniards that they sailed from the harbor into the open sea, and there the English attacked them.
Many of their ships were disabled, and four thousand of their men were killed in one day's fighting.
Next day the Spanish commanders held a council of war. The question to be decided was whether to try to sail home through Howard's fleet or go round Scotland and avoid his guns. It was determined to attempt the voyage round Scotland. So the whole remaining Spanish fleet of perhaps one hundred and twenty vessels steered toward the north.
On the coast of Scotland, there are dangerous rocks, and when the shattered Armada neared the Orkney Islands, violent storms arose, which wrecked many of the ships. Thus nature finished what man had begun — the ruin of the most powerful fleet that ever had sailed from the shores of Europe. Only fifty-four vessels and about ten thousand men succeeded in returning to Spain. About eighty ships had been destroyed, and thousands of men had perished.
Ten years after the destruction of the Armada, Sir Francis made one more voyage to the West Indies. He still cherished the plan of seizing the town of Porto Bello on the Isthmus of Panama, and thus securing the gold and silver brought there for shipment to Spain.
AT CLOSE QUARTERS
He was, however, again doomed to disappointment. He was stricken with fever, and died on board of his ship, January 28, 1596.
His body was buried at sea. Lord Macaulay wrote these lines in reference to his burial:
"The waves became his winding sheet:
The waters were his tomb.
But for his fame — the mighty sea
Has not sufficient room."
He left no children, but his nephew was made a baronet in the reign of James II. England will always remember with gratitude the services he rendered in the days of her struggle to become "mistress of the sea."
SIR ISAAC NEWTON
IN 1642, the very year in which the great Civil War broke out between Charles I, of England, and his Parliament, a wonderful man was born, named Isaac Newton.
As an infant he was so feeble that none of his family expected that he would live. If he had been a Spartan baby he would, according to Spartan law, certainly have been put to death. But by extra care on his mother's part his life was saved, and he grew into a lad with more than the ordinary powers of strength and endurance.
He was born in Woolsthorpe, in Lincolnshire, just one year after the death of Galileo, to whom he may be said to have borne a strong mental likeness.
When he first entered school he did not seem to be a very bright lad; but this was because he was not really trying to do his best.
One day a boy who ranked above him in his class struck him a severe blow. This proved to be one of the hest things that ever happened to young Newton; for, feeling that he was no match for the other lad with his fists, he determined to get even with him by beating him in the work of the class. This he soon did; and then he rose higher and higher until he stood above all the other boys in the school.
He spent most of his play hours in making mechanical toys. He watched some workmen who were putting up a windmill near his school; and then made a working model of it and fixed it on the roof of the house in which he lived.
He constructed a clock which was worked by a stream of water falling upon a small water wheel. He also built a carriage and fitted it with levers so that he could sit in it and move himself from place to place. This was, perhaps, the first velocipede ever constructed.
In Newton's day gas lamps and electric lights were unknown. The winter days were short, and it often happened that he had to go to school in the dark. So he made for himself a paper lantern to give him light on his early journeys, and this was soon copied by the other boys.
In the yard of the house in which his parents lived he traced on a wall, by means of fixed pins, the movements of the sun. Clocks were then very expensive, and the contrivance, which received the name of "Isaac's dial," was a standard of time to the country people of the neighborhood.
When he was fourteen his stepfather died, and his mother thought it best for Isaac to work upon a farm which belonged to the family. So he left school; but he had no love for plowing and reaping, or for attending to horses, cows, and pigs.
The sheep went astray while he was thinking out some problem in algebra or geometry; and the cattle got into the standing crops and munched the milky wheat-ears while he was studying the motions of the moon, or wondering what made the earth go round the sun.
His mother soon saw that Isaac would never make a farmer. He was therefore sent back to school and fitted to enter college.
He was the most wonderful mathematician that ever graduated from the University of Cambridge; and, when only twenty-seven, he was made professor of mathematics in the college in which he had studied.
He rose to eminence in the university, and through the influence of some of its leaders he was appointed Warden of the Mint in 1695, and was promoted to the Mastership four years later.
He then moved to London, and went to live in a little house near Leicester Square. His salary enabled him to devote himself to his favorite studies; and this he proceeded to do.
One of the first important discoveries he made was about light.
Before his time every one thought that light was made up of fine lines, or rays; bright, but without any color. Isaac made an expriment which any boy can repeat. He bored a small hole through the shutter of a window so as to allow only a delicate pencil of light to enter the room. This made a round spot of white or colorless light on the wall opposite the window; and he set out to examine this spot and see what it could teach him. When he put a glass prism into the pathway of the ray, he found that the colorless spot disappeared.
NEWTON AND THE PRISM
Instead of it he saw on the wall, above where the circular spot had been, a beautiful band of light in which several colors were blended. At the top end this band was blue. At the bottom it was red. In the middle it was yellow.
Newton had thus discovered that a ray of white light is made up of colored rays.
His next experiment was with soap bubbles.
He found that when blown very thin the colors of the light could be more plainly discerned, and he was soon able to count seven distinct tints violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. These are the seven colors seen in the rainbow.
But the greatest of Newton's discoveries was that which is now spoken of as "The Law of Gravitation."
Everybody knew, long before Newton was born, that apples fell from trees to the ground: but no one seems to have asked the question why they never moved the other way.
All boys know that a ball thrown up into the air will come down again: but no one, before Newton lived, had tried to find out why this was so.
At first he seems to have thought that only things that were near to the earth would fall to its surface. But when he thought how the rain drops fell from the clouds he saw that his theory was not true.
Then he thought of the moon going round the earth; and wondered how it kept just so high up in the sky; and why it did not fall like the rain drops. This was a new puzzle and he set to work to solve it.
About two hundred years before Isaac Newton was born, a great Polish astronomer named Copernicus had written a book in which he had said that people were wrong who believed that the sun goes round the earth.
Copernicus insisted that the earth moves round the sun. At the first people made fun of this idea, but by Newton's day they had begun to believe it. Isaac began to wonder if this theory might not help him to solve his problem.
One of the favorite games of the boys of that day was to throw stones with a sling. Doubtless Isaac had himself used one many times in his play.
Now that he was grown up he remembered how he had whirled the stones round and round at a high rate of speed; and yet they never left the sling until he let go one of the strings.
Isaac knew that the moon goes whirling round the earth at the rate of about fifty thousand miles every day; and that the earth whirls round the sun at the rate of about one thousand miles a minute.
Certainly, thought Newton, the moon goes round the earth, and the earth goes round the sun, just as a stone is whirled round in a sling; but there must be something stronger than a cord to keep them in their places.
After thinking about the matter for a long time, he said, the moon is drawn toward the earth by a very powerful force; but she does not come nearer to the earth, or fall upon it, any more than the stone in the sling falls upon the hand of the slinger, because, like the stone, 'she is in rapid motion.
The earth is drawn toward the sun by the same wonderful force that draws the moon toward the earth; yet the earth does not fall upon the sun because it is all the while whirling forward at the rate of a thousand miles a minute.
Newton saw that the force which brings the stone and the apple down to the ground is the very same that draws the moon toward the earth and the earth toward the sun. He called this force "Gravity," or force of weight.
Then his great mind went on thinking beyond the moon and the earth to the far away stars. He soon learned that the same force which keeps the moon and the earth in their orbits, keeps all the stars of the sky in their courses.
For his great discoveries he was highly honored by the learned men of his day. He was made a member of the Royal Society, a society established for the purpose of gathering up and treasuring all forms of valuable knowledge.
The Royal Society aided him in publishing his books, of which he wrote twelve. The most important of these is called the "Principia."
In 1705 he was knighted by Queen Anne; and when he died, in 1727, his body lay in state for a whole week in the Jerusalem Chamber; and was then buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey.