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Sir Francis Drake
by [?]

Francis Drake was the son of a clergyman, in Devonshire, who being inclined to the doctrine of the protestants, at that time much opposed by Henry the eighth, was obliged to fly from his place of residence into Kent, for refuge, from the persecution raised against him, and those of the same opinion, by the law of the six articles.

How long he lived there, or how he was supported, was not known; nor have we any account of the first years of sir Francis Drake’s life, of any disposition to hazards and adventures which might have been discovered in his childhood, or of the education which qualified him for such wonderful attempts.

We are only informed, that he was put apprentice, by his father, to the master of a small vessel, that traded to France and the Low Countries, under whom he, probably, learned the rudiments of navigation, and familiarized himself to the dangers and hardships of the sea.

But how few opportunities soever he might have, in this part of his life, for the exercise of his courage, he gave so many proofs of diligence and fidelity, that his master, dying unmarried, left him his little vessel, in reward of his services; a circumstance that deserves to be remembered, not only as it may illustrate the private character of this brave man, but as it may hint, to all those, who may hereafter propose his conduct for their imitation, that virtue is the surest foundation both of reputation and fortune, and that the first step to greatness is to be honest.

If it were not improper to dwell longer on an incident, at the first view so inconsiderable, it might be added, that it deserves the reflection of those, who, when they are engaged in affairs not adequate to their abilities, pass them over with a contemptuous neglect, and while they amuse themselves with chimerical schemes, and plans of future undertakings, suffer every opportunity of smaller advantage to slip away, as unworthy their regard. They may learn, from the example of Drake, that diligence in employments of less consequence, is the most successful introduction to greater enterprises.

After having followed, for some time, his master’s profession, he grew weary of so narrow a province, and, having sold his little vessel, ventured his effects in the new trade to the West Indies, which, having not been long discovered, and very little frequented by the English, till that time, were conceived so much to abound in wealth, that no voyage thither could fail of being recompensed by great advantages. Nothing was talked of among the mercantile or adventurous part of mankind, but the beauty and riches of the new world. Fresh discoveries were frequently made, new countries and nations never heard of before, were daily described, and it may easily be concluded, that the relaters did not diminish the merit of their attempts, by suppressing or diminishing any circumstance that might produce wonder, or excite curiosity. Nor was their vanity only engaged in raising admirers, but their interest, likewise, in procuring adventurers, who were, indeed, easily gained by the hopes which naturally arise from new prospects, though, through ignorance of the American seas, and by the malice of the Spaniards, who, from the first discovery of those countries, considered every other nation that attempted to follow them, as invaders of their rights, the best concerted designs often miscarried.

Among those who suffered most from the Spanish injustice, was captain John Hawkins, who, having been admitted, by the viceroy, to traffick in the bay of Mexico, was, contrary to the stipulation then made between them, and in violation of the peace between Spain and England, attacked without any declaration of hostilities, and obliged, after an obstinate resistance, to retire with the loss of four ships, and a great number of his men, who were either destroyed or carried into slavery.