Drake’s raid

Under the early Tudors, England had hopes of trading peacefully with the Spanish Indies, but Elizabeth I’s aid to the rebellious Spanish Netherlands and her execution of Mary Stuart put an end to those ideas. Testing the waters in the early 1580s, English “adventurers” set up a small colony at Roanoke in Virginia (which disappeared without a trace) while English pirates, fortified by anti-Spanish propaganda, challenged the fragile status quo by raiding the Spanish Main. Sir Francis Drake’s 1586 attack on St. Augustine led the Spanish to pull back from supporting some of their North American outposts, and Santa Elena in present-day South Carolina was abandoned.


18. Caradoc, of Llancarvan. The history of Wales. Written originally in British.  London, 1774.  

In this 1774 edition of a text first published in 1584, David ap Owen tells the story of the Welsh King Madoc who, it was claimed, discovered the New World (and Florida) for Britain before the Spanish were led there by Columbus. This claim of prior discovery was often used to legitimize English attacks on Spanish territory and outposts in the Southeast.

This land, to the which Madoc came, must needs be some part of Nova Hispania or Florida. Whereupon it is manifest, that that countrie was long before by Brytaines discovered, afore either Columbus or Americus Vesputius lead anie Spaniardes hither.


19. Bartolomé de las Casas. The Spanish colonie.  London, 1583.
Open to the section detailing Spanish cruelties in Florida, this English translation of Las Casas’s classic account of the inhumane treatment of native peoples in Spanish America (Brevissima relacion. Seville, 1552) was another title chosen by Hakluyt to fan the flames of English outrage.  

…what right had the Spaniards over the Indians: saving that the Pope had given them the said land, and I leave to your judgement what right hee had therein: for it is doubtfull whether his power doe stretch to the distributing of worldly kingdoms.      


20. Henry Hexham. A tongue-combat lately happening between two English souldiers.  London, 1623.
In this “tongue-combat,” framed as a debate between two English soldiers, Hexham complains about the Spanish duplicity that poisoned England’s well-meaning attempts to foster trade between the two countries, as well as a multitude of other offenses. The sad fate of French Protestants at the hands of the Spanish is highlighted as a cautionary tale.
Neither yet will I mention what the French felt in Florida, where Pedro de Menendes hung up all the Frenchmen under the command of Laudonniére, with this inscription over their heads, “I doe not this as unto Frenchmen, but to Lutherans and Heretiques.” A watch word and a mirror to ours abroad in Virginia and the Bermuda’s, as also to us at home, to teach us to beware.


21. “St. Augustine.” In: Walter Bigges. A summarie and true discourse.  London, 1589.   

Exchanging anti-Spanish rhetoric for action, Sir Francis Drake and his followers resolved to right the wrongs done to Englishmen and embarked in 1585 on a voyage to lay waste to wealthy Spanish settlements in the Caribbean.  Pedro Menéndez’s St. Augustine, the oldest European-built city in the present-day United States, was the final target.  This plan, with a key to the events of that attack, shown below, is the earliest printed depiction of the town.


22. Baptista Boazio. The famous West Indian voyadge made by the Englishe fleete.  [London, 1589]. 

This map showing the track of Drake’s Caribbean raids was part of victory celebrations in print. Unlike earlier assaults on the Spanish, this expedition had the official support of Queen Elizabeth and was England’s first national assault on the Spanish Main. Additionally, it had great propaganda value, for although the attacks had been financially unsuccessful, rumors spread through Europe that the reverse was true.
To next section: the florida indian in literature and art  

Exhibition may be seen in THE Reading Room from january through
april 2013.

Exhibition prepared by Amy Turner Bushnell, Independent Research Scholar, and Susan Danforth, Curator of Maps, John Carter Brown Library.