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John Hawkins, Slave Trader

April 27, 2014 , , ,

My 13th great-grandfather has the shameful distinction of being a very early English slave trader.  Interestingly enough he was an early Puritan, when that title meant you hated Spain and the Pope and little else.  To put this in context the Puritans, to whom we attribute belief in religious tolerance, were ruthless and greedy.  These were the ancestor privateers who spread slavery to the western hemisphere.  He did some expeditions with Sir Francis Drake, his cousin:

Sir John Hawkins
Born: 1532
Birthplace: Plymouth, Devon, England
Died: 12-Nov- 1595
Location of death: Caribbean Sea, near Puerto Rico
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military

Nationality: England
Executive summary: British admiral, slave trader

Sir John Hawkins, or Hawkyns, British admiral, was born at Plymouth in 1532, and belonged to a family of Devonshire shipowners and skippers — occupations then more closely connected than is now usual. His father, William Hawkins, was a prosperous freeman of Plymouth, who thrice represented that town in parliament, and is described by Richard Hakluyt as one of the principal sea-captains in the west parts of England; his elder brother, also called William, was closely associated with him in his Spanish expeditions, and took an active part in fitting out ships to meet the Armada; and his nephew, the eldest son of the last named and of the same name, sailed with Sir Francis Drake to the South Sea in 1577, and served as lieutenant under Edward Fenton in the expedition which started for the East Indies and China in 1582. His son, Sir Richard Hawkins, was also a British admiral and explorer.

Sir John Hawkins was bred to the sea in the ships of his family. When the great epoch of Elizabethan maritime adventure began, he took an active part by sailing to the Guinea coast, where he robbed the Portuguese slavers, and then smuggled the negroes he had captured into the Spanish possessions in the New World. After a first successful voyage in 1562-63, two vessels which he had rashly sent to Seville were confiscated by the Spanish government. With the help of friends, and the open approval of the queen, who hired one of her vessels to him, he sailed again in 1564, and repeated his voyage with success, trading with the Creoles by force when the officials of the king endeavored to prevent him. These two voyages brought him reputation, and he was granted a coat of arms with a demi-Moor, or negro, chained, as his crest. The rivalry with Spain was now becoming very acute, and when Hawkins sailed for the third time in 1567, he went in fact, though not technically, on a national venture. Again he kidnapped negroes, and forced his goods on the Spanish colonies. Encouraged by his discovery that these settlements were small and unfortified, he on this occasion ventured to enter Vera Cruz, the port of Mexico, after capturing some Spaniards at sea to be held as hostages. He alleged that he had been driven in by bad weather. The falsity of the story was glaring, but the Spanish officers on the spot were too weak to offer resistance. Hawkins was allowed to enter the harbor, and to refit at the small rocky island of San Juan de Ulloa by which it is formed. Unfortunately for him, and for a French corsair whom he had in his company, a strong Spanish force arrived, bringing the new viceroy. The Spaniards, who were no more scrupulous of the truth than himself, pretended to accept the arrangement made before their arrival, and then when they thought he was off his guard attacked him on the 24th of September. Only two vessels escaped, his own, the “Minion”, and the “Judith”, a small vessel belonging to his cousin Francis Drake. The voyage home was miserable, and the sufferings of all were great.

For some years Hawkins did not return to the sea, though he continued to be interested in privateering voyages as a capitalist. In the course of 1572 he recovered part of his loss by pretending to betray the queen for a bribe to Spain. He acted with the knowledge of Lord Burleigh. In 1573 he became treasurer of the navy in succession to his father-in-law Benjamin Gonson. The office of comptroller was conferred on him soon after, and for the rest of his life he remained the principal administrative officer of the navy. Burleigh noted that he was suspected of fraud in his office, but the queen’s ships were kept by him in good condition. In 1588 he served as rear-admiral against the Spanish Armada and was knighted. In 1590 he was sent to the coast of Portugal to intercept the Spanish treasure fleet, but did not meet it. In giving an account of his failure to the queen he quoted the text “Paul doth plant, Apollo doth water, but God giveth the increase”, which exhibition of piety is said to have provoked the queen into exclaiming, “God’s death! This fool went out a soldier, and has come home a divine.” In 1595 he accompanied Drake on another treasure hunting voyage to the West Indies, which was even less successful, and he died at sea off Puerto Rico on the 12th of November 1595.

Hawkins was twice married, first to Katharine Gonson and then to Margaret Vaughan. He was counted a puritan when puritanism meant little beyond hatred of Spain and popery, and when these principles were an ever-ready excuse for voyages in search of slaves and plunder. In the course of one of his voyages, when he was becalmed and his negroes were dying, he consoled himself by the reflection that God would not suffer His elect to perish. Contemporary evidence can be produced to show that he was greedy, unscrupulous and rude. But if he had been a more delicate man he would not have risked the gallows by making piratical attacks on the Portuguese and by appearing in the West Indies as an armed smuggler; and in that case he would not have played an important part in history by setting the example of breaking down the pretension of the Spaniards to exclude all corners from the New World. His morality was that of the average stirring man of his time, whether in England or elsewhere.

Father: William Hawkins (sea captain, d. 1553)
Brother: William (d. 1589)
Wife: Katharine Gonson
Son: Sir Richard Hawkins
Wife: Margaret Vaughan

Knighthood 1588

Admiral Sir John Hawkins Knight (1520 – 1595)
is my 13th great grandfather
Elizabeth Hawkins (1530 – 1595)
daughter of Admiral Sir John Hawkins Knight
John Bouchier Sears (1561 – 1629)
son of Elizabeth Hawkins
Richard Sears (1590 – 1676)
son of John Bouchier Sears
Silas Sears (1638 – 1697)
son of Richard Sears
Silas Sears (1661 – 1732)
son of Silas Sears
Sarah Sears (1697 – 1785)
daughter of Silas Sears
Sarah Hamblin (1721 – 1814)
daughter of Sarah Sears
Mercy Hazen (1747 – 1819)
daughter of Sarah Hamblin
Martha Mead (1784 – 1860)
daughter of Mercy Hazen
Abner Morse (1808 – 1838)
son of Martha Mead
Daniel Rowland Morse (1838 – 1910)
son of Abner Morse
Jason A Morse (1862 – 1932)
son of Daniel Rowland Morse
Ernest Abner Morse (1890 – 1965)
son of Jason A Morse
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Ernest Abner Morse
Pamela Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse

Admiral Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595)

John Hawkins was born in Plymouth in 1532, the son of William Hawkins, a wealthy captain, shop-owner and merchant. William also happened to be Mayor of Plymouth that year, too. John’s mother was Joan Trelawney, from an equally rich and well-known Cornish Family. It is therefore no surprise that he should have become a seaman and adventurer in his own right.  A suggestion that the trade received Royal sanction.

In 1559 John Hawkins married Katharine Gonson, the daughter of Benjamin Gonson, who was Treasurer of the Navy. Hawkins made his first such voyage in 1562, taking Negroes he had captured in West Africa to barter with the Spaniards in the West Indies for precious metals, pearls and bullion. A second voyage was made in 1564. In 1567 he sailed with his kinsman, Francis Drake, on an attempt to open up legitimate trade with the Spanish and Portuguese. This expedition had the support of Queen Elizabeth.

Naturally, the King of Spain was against that idea. At San Juan de Ulua (now known as Vera Cruz), the English fleet was attacked while at anchor and destroyed. Drake and Hawkins escaped and Drake returned to Plymouth on January 20, 1569 aboard the “Judith.” However, John Hawkins was in a big of a predicament. Having abandoned the “Jesus”, he had a larger than usual crew on board the “Minion” and he was unable to take on fresh victuals or water and he felt that the vessel could not safety sail home across the Atlantic in this situation. He decided the only option was to leave some of the men on the Mexican coast but they would have no provisions and they would be a the mercy of both the natives and the Spaniards. A hundred men volunteered to stay behind and Hawkins promised to return to collect them as soon as possible, if he himself reached England safely. But safely return he did and on January 25, 1569 a farm labourer working in a field above Mount’s Bay in Cornwall saw the ship anchor and send a boat ashore. Upon hearing the situation, the labourer hurried to Plymouth to tell John’s brother, William, and he sent a fresh crew to Mount’s Bay to take the ship to Plymouth.

Hawkins did honour his pledge to get those left in Mexico back home but it took him three years. Some of the men had been handed over to the Spanish Inquisition and slung into prison. In order to get them released, John Hawkins entered into a strange tale of intrigue. He laid a bait for the Spanish ambassador by letting him hear some very seditious remarks about Queen Elizabeth. He gradually expanded upon this by introducing incidents that would suggest he was embittered by her treatment of him. He hinted that he might transfer his allegiance to King Philip of Spain. Fortunately, Hawkins had never made a great play of his support for the Protestants, so he was easily able to convince King Philip that he was a Catholic at heart. He following this up with an offer of his private fleet for the use of the King and he even managed to get a letter from the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots, in which she vouched for his honestly and begged the King to release the captured seamen. This was duly achieved and the seamen were even given five Spanish gold crowns and a free passage home to England.

John Hawkins was appointed joint Treasurer of the Navy with his father-in-law in about 1572, but Benjamin Gonson died soon afterwards and Hawkins inherited the post full-time. As the most important figure on the Navy Board, for the next few years he devoted his attentions to building up the fleet and removing inefficiencies and abuses within the service. He changed the design of English warships, building them lower and faster and able to carry more powerful cannons. This turned out to be of great advantage in the forthcoming battle with the Spanish Armada.

In October 1573 Hawkins suffered an assassination attempt. He was riding down the Strand in London with Sir William Wynter when one Peter Burchett, a fanatic, attacked and stabbed him after mistakenly thinking he was Sir Christopher Hatton. For several days his life was in dangerand the Queen even sent her own physicians to attend him but he survived to fight another day.

Hawkins commanded the rear squadron at Plymouth when the approach of the Armada was spotted and for his action against the ill-fated fleet he was knighted by the Lord Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham, aboard the “Ark Royal”.” After that great victory, Hawkins spent a considerable amount of energy obtaining assistance and pensions for the wounded seamen involved, many of whom were unable to work again.

In 1593 Sir John resigned from the Navy Board and shortly afterwards he set sail on what was to be his last expedition. It was to go in search of his son, Richard, who he believed had been captured by the Spanish off the South American coast. He was appointed as a joint commander with Sir Francis Drake but this proved to be a bad arrangement. They had very different temperaments. Drake was dashing and casual, whereas Sir John was steady, slow and methodical. For example, while Hawkins made careful arrangements for the provisioning of his ships, Sir Francis just sailed off with insufficient stores on board his ships. Drake’s casualactions meant that they were required to stop off at the Canary Islands on their way, whichunfortunately destroyed the element of surprise. But the situation got even worse. Sir JohnHawkins fell seriously ill and when the fleet dropped anchor off Porto Rico on November 12,1595, he died. Sir Francis Drake was to die shortly afterwards

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