Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015-01-09 A Year With The Harvard Classics - The Treasure Hunt in Nombre de Dios

January 9 - A Treasure Hunt in Nombre de Dios:  With only fifty two men, Sir Francis Drake conceives the idea of attacking his archenemy, Spain, at her most vulnerable point the treasure of Nombre de Dios.  (Drace died at Noumbre de Dios, Jan 9, 1596.) Read from Nichol's Sir Francis Drake Revived, Vol. 33, pp. 135-145.

Click HERE to read an online version of Philip Nichol's Sir Francis Drake Revived (1910).

Shortly upon our first arrival in this island, the Governor and the rest of his Assistants in the town, as we afterwards understood, sent unto our Captain, a proper gentleman, of mean stature, good complexion, and a fair spoken, a principal soldier of the late sent garrison, to view in what state we were. At his coming he protested "He came to us, of mere good will, for that we had attempted so great and incredible a matter with so few men: and that, at the first, they feared that we had been French, at whose hands they knew they should find no mercy: but after they perceived by our arrows, that we were Englishmen, their fears were the less, for that they knew, that though we took the treasure of the place, yet we would not use cruelty toward their persons. But albeit this his affection gave him cause enough, to come aboard such, whose virtue he so honoured: yet the Governor also had not only consented to his coming, but directly sent him, upon occasion that divers of the town affirmed, said he, 'that they knew our Captain, who the last two years had been often on our coast, and had always used their persons very well.' And therefore desired to know, first, Whether our Captain was the same Captain DRAKE or not? and next, Because many of their men were wounded with our arrows, whether they were poisoned or not? and how their wounds might best be cured? lastly, What victuals we wanted, or other necessaries? of which the Governor promised by him to supply and furnish us, as largely as he durst."
Our Captain, although he thought this soldier but a spy: yet used him very courteously, and answered him to his Governor's demands: that "He was the same DRAKE whom they meant! It was never his manner to poison his arrows! They might cure their wounded by ordinary surgery! As for wants, he knew the Island of Bastimentos has sufficient, and could furnish him if he listed! But he wanted nothing but some of that special commodity which that country yielded, to content himself and his company." And therefore he advised the Governor "to hold open his eyes! for before he departed, if GOD lent him life and leave, he meant to reap some of their harvest, which they get out of the earth, and sent into Spain to trouble all the earth!"
To this answer unlooked for, this gentleman replied, "If he might, without offence, move such a question, what should then be the cause of our departing from that town at this time, where was above 360 tons of silver ready for the Fleet, and much more gold in value, resting in iron chests in the King's Treasure House?"
But when our Captain had shewed him the true cause of his unwilling retreat aboard, he acknowledged that "we had no less reason in departing, than courage in attempting:" and no doubt did easily see, that it was not for the town to seek revenge of us, by manning forth such frigates or other vessels as they had; but better to content themselves and provide for their own defence.
Thus, with great favour and courteous entertainment, besides such gifts from our Captain as most contented him, after dinner, he was in such sort dismissed, to make report of what he had seen, that he protested, "he was never so much honoured of any in his life."
(Nichols, Sir Francis Drake Revived, (1910) THC,, Vol. 33, pp. 141-143)

This scene from Drake's plunder of the King's gold reserve at Nombre de Dios is breath-taking, especially in a day and age when it is hard to find in fiction or reality a representation of this kind of civility. The very idea that we would approach, much less be entertained and engaged thoughtfully by those who we had defined as our enemies, and to receive form those we entertain such care for both our well-being and that of those in the care of the other, is a reminder that midst of the the strife and blood-shed that continues to plague our species, there are moments when we can and ought to be reminded of other, more human proclivities.  It reminds me of the 1914 "Christmas Truce" during WWI when Allied forces and German forces entrenched sometimes only 30 to 40 feet apart, took it upon themselves to celebrate Christmas by exchanging cigarettes, rations, helping each other bury the dead, and by playing soccer games.

Let us endeavor to remember our humanity, especially in those moments when it is easiest to forget it.  Let us strive to remember the common bonds of our species that make us kin far more deeply than our nationality, culture, religious or political affiliation could ever affect. 

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