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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 47.djvu/204

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(cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xi. 262, 2nd ser. ix. 331). The gentlemen volunteers who gathered round Ralegh subscribed the rest. Among these were Charles Parker, a brother of William Parker, fourth baron Monteagle [q. v.]; Captain North, brother of Dudley, third lord North [q. v.]; Sir Warham St. Leger, son of Ralegh's old comrade in Ireland; and George Ralegh, a son of Ralegh's brother George. With them were Kemys, Captain (afterwards Sir John) Penington [q. v.], and others of good repute as seamen or as soldiers; but as a rule the merchants of London, or Bristol, or Plymouth, like the seafaring folk of the west country, held aloof from the enterprise. His ships were thus filled up with ‘the world's scum.’ Even of the volunteers, many of them were ‘drunkards, blasphemers, and others such as their fathers, brothers, and friends thought it an exceeding good gain to be discharged of with the hazard of some thirty, forty, or fifty pounds, knowing they could not have lived a whole year so cheap at home’ (‘Apology for the Voyage to Guiana,’ Works, viii. 480).

As soon as the proposed voyage to the Orinoco was publicly spoken of, Sarmiento, the Spanish ambassador, vehemently protested against it. All Guiana (the modern Venezuela), he asserted, belonged to the king of Spain, and Ralegh's incursion would be an invasion of Spanish territory, but he thought it more probable that Ralegh meant to lie in wait for and attack the Mexican plate fleet, in practical disregard of the peace between the two countries. Ralegh protested that he had no intention of turning pirate; that the mine really existed, and added, according to Sarmiento, that it was neither in nor near the king of Spain's territories—a statement palpably false (Gardiner, iii. 39). Ralegh knew that the Spaniards had taken possession of the district (Edwards, ii. 338). Ralegh had stringent orders not to engage in any hostilities against the Spaniards, and was assured that disobedience would cost him his life (Gardiner, iii. 44 n.) This warning he treated as mainly intended to satisfy Sarmiento, and as an intimation of the possible result of failure. To Bacon he spoke openly of seizing the Mexican plate fleet, and to Bacon's objection that that would be piracy, he answered ‘Did you ever hear of men being pirates for millions?’ (ib. p. 48).

While the preparations were in progress another design occurred to him. Towards the end of 1616 war again broke out between Spain and Savoy, and Savoy turned to France and England for support. Genoa, nominally neutral, was rendering valuable aid to Spain. James was not unwilling to assist Savoy, but was destitute of the means, and Ralegh, understanding the situation from Winwood, suggested to the Savoyard ambassador in London that he should urge the king to divert the Guiana squadron to an assault on Genoa. James, after considering the proposal, declined to sanction a change in the destination of Ralegh's expedition (ib. pp. 50–2). Ralegh, however, was anxious to obtain some further security for his life in case of failure. With that view he entered into negotiations with the French ambassador in London, and with the admiral of France, hoping for the assistance of some French ships, and a safe retreat to France in the event of defeat. The confused evidence points to the conclusion that Ralegh had determined to attempt the capture of the Mexican plate fleet, to establish himself in force at the mine, and to seize the islands of Trinidad and Margarita as the keys of the position. He believed that success, in spite of his orders, would win the king's pardon, but, if not, that the treasure he would carry with him would insure him a favourable reception in France. He sailed from Plymouth with a squadron of fourteen ships on 12 June 1617.

The voyage was unfortunate from the first. Foul winds and storms drove him back, and afterwards scattered his fleet; one ship was sunk. Most of them, more or less disabled, put into the harbour of Cork. In July Ralegh paid a visit to Sir Richard Boyle, who lent him 100l., and next month he entered into a partnership with Boyle for the working of the copper mine at Balligarren (Lismore Papers, ed. Grosart, 1st ser. i. 158, 163, 2nd ser. ii. 86–6). He was not ready to sail again till 19 Aug. At the Canaries the Spaniards were sullenly obstructive; it was only after being refused at two of the islands that they were allowed to water at Gomera. From the Cape Verde Islands they were driven by a hurricane. Calms and foul winds followed; they lay for forty days in the Doldrums, short of water, a prey to scurvy and fever. Great numbers of the men, with several of the captains and superior officers, died. Ralegh himself was stricken with fever. The crews were mutinous. It was afterwards stated that Ralegh encouraged them with assurances of capturing the Mexican fleet if the mine failed (Gardiner, iii. 118). On arriving off the mouth of the Oyapok he hoped to be joined by Leonard, an Indian whom he had brought to England on his former voyage, and who had lived with him for three or four years. But Leonard was not there, and Ralegh moved his squadron, reduced by wreck or separation to ten ships, to