Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HAWKINS, Sir John, navigator, born in Plymouth, England, in 1520; died at sea, 21 November, 1595. His father, William, began the African slave-trade in which England was engaged for nearly three hundred years. John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his success in the same enterprise. In January, 1565, he crossed with a cargo of captives from Guinea to the West Indies, arrived at the island of Dominica, and traded along the Spanish coasts and Florida until about the first of June, when he returned to England. Hawkins is the first Englishman who gives any detailed account of Florida. The struggling French colony of Landonniere was then in the second year of its existence. He showed them great kindness, and left them a vessel in which to return to France. In his narrative regarding Florida he mentions the abundance of tobacco, sorrel, maize, and grapes, and ascribes the failure of the French colony to their lack of thrift, as "in such a climate and soil, with marvellous store of deer, and divers other beasts, all men may live." On his return he was presented with a coat of arms, on which was graven the figure of a savage, bound and captive, and to intimate that the African slave-trade was the true crusade of the reign of Elizabeth, the pilgrims' scallop-shell in gold, between two palmers' staves. In 1567 he embarked on a third voyage with his kinsman, Francis Drake. They captured several hundred negroes in Guinea, crossed again to Dominica, and, when the Spaniards refused to trade with them, stormed the town of Rio de la Hacha, and, not with standing the prohibition of the government, exchanged negroes with the planters for jewels and produce. They then crossed the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida, were forced to put into San Juan de Ulna for supplies, and the next day engaged in a naval action with the Spanish, in which Hawkins lost his whole fleet except two small ships. Returning to England, he became treasurer of the navy, and in 1588 was vice-admiral of the squadron that was sent against the Spanish armada. In 1595 Drake prevailed upon Elizabeth to send him with Hawkins on another expedition to Spanish America. They sailed from Plymouth with the intention of seizing Nombre de Dies, but the commanders quarrelled and separated. Porto Rico successfully resisted the English, and Hawkins died at sea, overcome by his reverses. He was an able seaman, but rude, cunning, and avaricious. He founded a hospital at Chatham for seamen. Hawkins published "A True Declaration of the Troublesome Voyage of Mr. John Hawkins to the Partes of Guynea and the West Indies, 1567-'8" (London, 1569).
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