Page:Early English adventurers in the East (1917).djvu/33

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29
THE DAWN OF THE EMPIRE

West Indies with the despoiled cargo of the captured Portuguese galleon there was nothing to show for the considerable outlay on the venture. The only substantial asset was a fund of experience of Eastern navigation, which, however valuable from the larger standpoint of national commercial development was of small account in the calculations of merchants seeking a profitable new field for the utilization of their capital. Still, the spirit of enterprise in England at that period was such that men were found ready to employ Lancaster afresh in a speculative undertaking overseas. Only five months after he had returned from the Eastern voyage we find him once more on his native element, the commander of a new fleet of three vessels equipped for a perilous foray on the Portuguese possessions in South America. The aggregate tonnage of this little squadron did not reach 500, yet such was the spirit of the man and his fine contempt for the Portuguese that he made directly for the Brazilian port of Pemambuco, which was then one of the chief centres of Portuguese trade in the West and as such heavily fortified. By a display of cool daring and resourcefulness which was proof alike against the feeble defensive measures and the crooked diplomacy of the local Portuguese authorities he compelled the submission of Recife, the port of Pemambuco, extracted a heavy ransom in the shape of treasure and goods, and with heavily laden ships made for home, arriving at Blackwall in July, 1595. It was a purely piratical expedition which cannot be justified on any modern principle, but the Elizabethan age was not a fastidious one in these matters. In the then near past the country had suffered grievous wrongs at the hands of both Portugal and Spain. For long years the nation