Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/43

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Lancaster
Lancaster
37

in the middle of February, after a circuitous navigation and a season of unfavourable winds, doubled Cape Comoria towards the end of May, and in June anchored at Pulo Panang, with the 'men very sick and many fallen. Many too had died, and after landing the sick they were left with 'but thirty-two men and one boy, of which not past twenty-two were found for labour and help, and of them not past a third part sailors.' Thus reduced, the Edward put to put about the middle of August, and cruising on the Martaban coast captured a small Portuguese vessel laden with pepper, another of 250 tons burden, and a third of 750, with a rich cargo and three hundred men, women, and children. She then crossed over to Ceylon, and anchoring at Point de Galle, where 'the captain lying very sick, more like to die than to live,' the crew mutinied and insisted on taking the direct course for England. On 8 Dec. 1592 they sailed for the Cape of Good Hope, which they doubled on 31 March 1593, and after touching at St. Helena and at Trinidad in the West Indies, in the vain hope 'there to find refreshing,' they steered for Porto Rico, and at the little island of Mona met a French ship, from which they obtained some bread and other provisions. The ships then separated, but met again off Cape Tiburon, just a squall off the land had carried away all the Edward's sails. The Frenchman supplied her with canvas, and after she had got some provisions from the shore she sailed for Newfoundland ; but falling into a hurricane. About the middle of September, and being driven far to the southward and partially dismasted, she again came to Mona about 20 Nov. Shortly after, while Lancaster, with the lieutenant and the greater part of the crew, was on shore, the Edward Bonaventure, with only five men and a boy on board, was blown out to sea, and being unable to return to the anchorage went for England, where he arrived safely. Lancaster and those with him were, some time afterwards, taken by another French ship to Dieppe, and finally landed at Rye on 24 May 1594.

Terrible as the loss of life had been — barely twenty-five returning to England out of the 198 who had doubled the Cape of Good Hope — a very rich booty had been brought home; the Portuguese monopoly of the East India trade had been rudely broken, and it had been proved that, so far as England was concerned, it might be broken again at pleasure. The formation of the East India Company the natural consequence. But that, there were some — aldermen and merchants of London — who thought the Portuguese might be profitably, as patriotically, plundered nearer home, and who, in the summer of 1594, fitted out three ships for this purpose and placed them under Lancaster's command. They sailed in October, and, after capturing in any Spanish and Portuguese vessels on the way, arrived in the following spring at Pernambuco, where there happened to be a large accumulation of East Indian and Brazilian produce — spices, dye-woods, sugar, and calico. The town was taken with little loss, and the merchandise became the spoil of the victors. They had been joined at the Cape Verd Islands by one Venner, who had been admitted as a partner in the adventure. Three large Dutch ships in the harbour of Pernambuco, with four French ships, were chartered by Lancaster for the homeward voyage. All these he loaded with the plunder, and, after thirty days, prepared to sail for England. On the last day the Portuguese were observed constructing a battery to command the entrance of the harbour, and Lancaster, who was sick strong parly of men to destroy their work. This destruction was done without difficulty ; but advancing further, beyond the cover of the ships' broadsides, they were met by a large body of Portuguese and repulsed with great loss, almost all the officers of the party, and others. to the number of thirty-five, being killed. The loss was occasioned by great disobedience of Lancaster's orders. His men 'were much daunted,' but he put to sea that night with fifteen vessels, 'all laden with merchandizes, and that of and worth.' In a 'stiff gale of wind' outside the fleet was scattered, and most of the ships, being ignorant of the coast, 'went directly for England.' Lancaster, and four ships with him, filled up with water and fresh provisions in a neighbouring port, and arrived in the Downs in July.

The wealth thus brought home was a further incentive to the formation of the East India Company. In 1600 Lancaster was appointed to command their first fleet, the queen granting him a 'commission of martial law' and letters to the eastern kings with whom he might have to negotiate. In the Red Dragon of 600 tons burden, and with three other ships, Hector, Ascension, and Susan, Lancaster sailed from Woolwich on 13 Feb. 1600-1; he was, however, delayed in the Downs 'for want of wind,' and finally sailed from Torbay on 20 April 1601. Again keeping too near the coast of Africa, the fleet was more than a month in crossing the 'doldrums;' and being further delayed by contrary winds, it did not get into Table Bay