Hawkins, Sir John

, an able naval commander, was born at Plymouth about 1520. Being the son of a seaman, captain William Hawkins, he imbibed a love for the profession, and when a youth made several voyages to Spain, Portugal, and the Canaries. In the spring of 1562 he formed the design of his first famous voyage, the consequence of which was very important to his country, as he then began that traffic in slaves, which after two centuries and a half we have seen abolished. At that time, however, this trade was accounted honourable and useful, and sir John bore the badge of his exploits in a crest of arms granted him by patent, consisting of a “demi-moor in his proper colour, bound with a cord,” not unlike a device which we have seen employed to excite an abhorrence of the slave-trade when its abolition was first agitated. In returning from a third expedition of this kind he was attacked and defeated by a Spanish fleet. After undergoing many hardships, he reached home in Jair. 1568; and it is said that his ill-success in this instance damped his ardour for maritime enterprise. In 1573 he was appointed treasurer of the navy, and in a few months he had nearly lost his life by a wound from an enthusiastic assassin, who mistook him for another person. He was now consulted on every important occasion, and in 1588; was appointed rear-admiral on-board the Victory, to confront the famous armada. His conduct on this occasion obtained for him the high commendations of his illustrious queen, the honour of knighthood, and other important commands in the navy. He died in 1595, it is said of vexation, on account of an unsuccessful attempt on the enemies possessions in the West Indies, and in the Canaries. He was a good mathematician, and understood every thing that related to his profession as a seaman. He possessed much personal courage, and had a presence of mind that set him above fear, and which enabled him frequently to deliver himself and others out of the reach of the most imminent dangers; he had great sagacity, and formed his plans so judiciously, and executed the orders committed | to him with so much punctuality and accuracy, that he ever obtained the applause of his superiors. He was submissive to those above him, and courteous to his inferiors, extremely affable to his seamen, and much beloved by them. He sat twice in parliament as burgess for Plymouth, and once for some other borough. He erected an hospital at Chatham for the relief of disabled and diseased seamen, and is highly applauded by his contemporaries and by historians, who lived after him. His son, sir Richard Hawkins, was brought up to a maritime life, and in 1582, when very young, he had the command of a vessel in an expedition under his uncle to the West Indies; he also commanded a ship in the action against the Spanish armada, in which he was greatly distinguished. About 1593, he sailed with three ships, his own property, to the coast of Brazil, at the commencement of a much longer voyage; but he was obliged to burn one of his little squadron, another deserted their commander, so that he was under the necessity of sailing alone through the straits of Magellan. To satisfy the desires of his men, he made prizes of some vessels, which drew upon him the whole force of a Spanish squadron, to which he was compelled to yield. After a confinement of two years in Peru and the adjacent provinces, he was sent back to Europe. He died in 1622, as he was attending, on business, the privycouncil. He left behind him a work of considerable value, which was printed and ready for publication it is entitled “The Observations of sir Richard Hawkins, knight, into the South-sea, A.D. 1593.” From this piece, which the author dedicated to prince Charles, afterwards king Charles I., it appears that the issue of his voyage to the South-seas, his long confinement, and the disasters which naturally attended it, brought him into great distress. His nautical observations, his description of the passage through the straits of Magellan, and his remarks on the sea-scurvy, and on the best methods of preserving his men in health, were considered at that period of very great importance. He intended to have published a second part of his observations, in which he meant to have given an account of what happened to him and his companions during their stay in Peru, and in Terra Firma, but which death prevented him from accomplishing. 1

1 Biog. Brit. Prince’s Worthies of Devon,