Sir John Hawkins Biography
Sir John Hawkins
(1532 - 1595) was a famous English shipbuilder, military commander, merchant and a slave trader that left his mark on naval history during the second
part of 16th century. During his life he proved himself to be very accomplished military tactician by organizing defense of England against
overwhelming forces of Spanish Armada in 1588, and by starting an era of organized English slave transport from the shores of Africa
to America.Hawkins spent majority of his career working with other famous explorers of his time - Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Grenville and his son Sir Richard Hawkins.
John Hawkins was born in England as fourth son of William Hawkins and Joan Trelawney, and second cousin of Sir Francis Drake. As his family consisted
from the line of extremely wealthy merchants, John continued that tradition and begun his merchant career. In 1555 he formed syndicate of merchants
with a goal to transport slaves from Africa to new World. On his first journey, he traveled with three ships and one captured
Portuguese ship, successfully delivering 301 slaves on the shores of Caribbean and managing to anger the Spanish who promptly forbid the travel of
English slave ships in West Indies waters.
Second journey John Hawkins was even more ambitious, and using his newly added 700-ton ship "Jesus of Lubeck" he ransacked the coast of Africa,
capturing over 400 slaves and destroying several Portuguese and Spanish settlements along the way. After successfully selling his slaves in the
Columbian city Rio de la Hacha (against the wishes of protesting Spanish), he gathered his profit and returned to England in 1566. Third journey
preformed between 1567 and 1569 was initially even more prosperous, but upon entering the Central American waters, Hawkins became entangled in the
conflict between Spanish crown and Spanish colonist. In the ensuing battles, only two of his ships survived, and Hawkins managed to return to England
with only two ships.
After those 3 journeys, John Hawkins focused more on his political and shipbuilding career. He helped Queen Elizabeth in 1571 in finding traitors that
helped Ridolfi plot, which brought him many honors and eventually position of Treasurer of the Royal Navy in 1578. His management of
fleet proved to be very instrumental in organization of the navy, and his shipbuilding made even smaller ships very effective in combat. All those
changes introduced by him paid off in 1588 when overwhelming force of Spanish Armada set sail for English waters. During that time, John Hawkins was
one of the three main commanders that organized defense of England, together with his Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher. Immediately following the that battle, Sir John Hawkins(now knighted by the English crown) and Francis Drake formed
exploratory fleet with a goal to find Spanish treasure fleets and prevent Kings Philip IIefforts to re-arm his fleet. Sadly, English expedition utterly
failed, and enabled Spanish to regain much of the lost power in the next decade.
The last expedition of Sir John Hawkins happened in 1595. Joined forces of Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake traveled across West Indies,
attacking any Spanish forces and looking for gold and riches. On their journey they launched two unsuccessful attacks on San Juan in Puerto Rico, until
late 1595 when both of the captains fell ill from dysentery and died on the sea. Bodies of both of them were buried on the sea off the coast of Puerto
Rico and Porto Belo, while Hawkins' son Sir Richard Hawkins assumed command over the remaining fleet.
Sir John Hawkins is today remembered for his exploits, especially after 2006's publishing of the book that covered his life and influence on the slave
trade. His journeys are also remembered for the first introduction of potatoes and tobacco to the England, and the birth of the word "shark" (which was
brought to the Europe by Hawkins sailors).