East Indies
December 1576


Institute of Historical Research



W. Noel Sainsbury (editor)

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'East Indies: December 1576', Calendar of State Papers Colonial, East Indies, China and Japan, Volume 2: 1513-1616 (1864), pp. 12-17. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=68568 Date accessed: 16 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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December 1576

Dec.26. Brief note of the charges of the Gabriel, the Michael, and pinnace for the first voyage to Cathay, &c., sent with Martin Frobisher, in June 1567 [mistake for 1576]; total, 1,418l. 17s. 4d, which, with wages paid since their return until Dec. 1576, amounts to 1,613l. 19s. 3d. The subscribed stock was 875l., Michael Lok having disbursed the remaining 738l. 19s. 3d., “to his great hindrance and great danger of it had been lost.” The ships and goods returned were sold on account of the second voyage for 813l 19s. 3d. The clear loss by this first voyage being 800l., “which the stock of the adventurers must bear until God send better success.” There rests 75l. stock to the account, of the second voyage. [Two pages. Domestic, Eliz., Vol. CXIX., No. 32. Cal., p. 573. A duplicate copy is in the British Museum, Lansdowne, XXIV., fol. 162. Frobisher started on his first voyage 7th June 1576, and returned to Harwich 2nd October following. See Hall's account in Hakluyt, III., 52.]
27. Memorial of Michael Lok. His late father, Sir Win. Lok, alderman, kept him at school until 1545, when he was 13, who being sworn mercer and agent beyond the seas to King Henry VIII., sent him to Flanders and France. Has travelled for 32 years through almost all the countries of Christianity, and been captain of a ship of 1,000 tons in divers voyages in the Levant. His knowledge in languages and in all matters appertaining to the traffic of merchants. Of late renewed his old acquaintance with Martin Frobisher, joined with and furnished him with things necessary for his first voyage lately made to the north–westward for the discovery of Cathay and other new countries, “which hitherto have been hidden by the slothfulness of some, and policy of others.” In this voyage such new lands have been discovered as will very shortly yield great honour to the Queen, and infinite treasure and benefit to the whole realm. Because since Frobisher's return men speak diversely of his doings, Lok gives a full account of them. In 1574, Frobisher brought a letter from the Queen to the Muscovy Company, exhorting them to again attempt the discovery to Cathay, 20 years having passed since their first enterprise, or else to grant their licence to others who are desirous to do so. Conference with Geo. Bam, now sheriff of London, Win. Towerson, and Stephen Borowgh, on behalf of the Muscovy Company, Lok having charge of the Company's business and “understanding the ground of this case.” The Company's unfavourable answer. Second letter from the Queen, procured by Frobisher, requiring the Company either to attempt the matter themselves or to grant licence to another to do it by the northwestward. Licence granted, in Feb. 1575, to Lok, Frobisher, and such others as would be adventurers. The enterprise stayed that year for lack of money. Two barks, of 25 tons each, furnished the following year, being the Gabriel, Chris. Hall master, and the Michael, Owen Gryffyn master; also a pinnace of 10 tons, Martin Frobisher captain and pilot: in all 34 persons, who left Gravesend 12 June 1576. The learned man, “John Dee,” favours the enterprise and offers to further it with instruments and advice; meeting at Lok's house of Dee, Frobisher, Borowgh, Hall, and another. Reasons for Lok's “conjectures and probabilities” of a passage; his acquaintance with Sir Humphrey Gylberte about Easter, 1575, and approval of his book printed in May 1575, “for the maintenance of the good hope and likelihood in this enterprise of new discovery,” though well known to them long before. Pains taken by Wm. Borowgh in furnishing the ships, though he was not so well persuaded of the enterprise as to venture his money. Considerations which moved Lok to advance this new voyage and adventure his money so largely. Speaks of the rare and valiant Frobisher who has put his life in so great hazard, and endured such great labours for the benefit of his country, “as the like is not to be read of in any history.” Will briefly show his good will towards Frobisher by declaring the truth of him and his doings. Frobisher was born of honest parentage, gentlemen of a good house and antiquity, who sent him to London to school; his kinsman Sir John York, deceased, “perceiving him to be of great spirit and bold courage, and natural hardness of body,” sent him to Guinea, “In which voyage, &c.” [Here the page abruptly ends. On the opposite side of the same leaf begins an] Account of the voyage set forth from Gravesend 12th June 1576. Great storm in which they lost sight of their pinnace with three men, “which they could never since hear of.” 11th July had sight of land unknown to them, by conjecture should seem to be the great island of Friezland; observations of the eastern, side. Separated from the Michael, which came to Labrador, “but found it so compassed with monstrous high islands of ice that they dur st not approach,” but sailed homeward and arrived at London, September 1. Dangers to the Gabriel averted by the valiant courage of the captain. “Reached Labrador on 29th July, the headland whereof Frobisher named Elizabeth Foreland; description of it; in 16 days, the ice being well consumed, the master of the ship landed upon the first island and named it Hall's Island. Discovery of Frobisher's Streight, and of an island where the captain and six of his men landed and found seven strange boats; a skiff sent to view and have speech with the men, one of them came aboard the ship who “made great wondering at all things.” The captain perceiving these strange people to be of a nature given to fierceness and rapine, and not himself prepared for defence, departed to another island very near the main land on the north side. Discovery of two headlands at the farthest end of the straits; by reason there was no likelihood of land to the northward, the great brode open between, and the great flood tides they judged to be the West Sea, whereby to pass to Cathay and to the East Indies. Further observations: finding of the walls of 12 old houses of the countrylike cottages, but no people in them; and of three houses covered with the leather of seal skins like tents; and also two dogs. Intercourse with the natives, who came in a great boat and made signs of friendship; “their manner of life and food, which is very beastly.” The captain had talk with one of these strange men that he should be their pilot through the straits into the West Sea; no trust to be given to such a pilot, nor to any of the people. Foolish mind of the mariners to have traffic on land; five of them rowed out of sight of the ship contrary to the captain's commands; and “after that hour he never saw them nor could hear anything of them.” Remained a day and a night at anchor, judging they were kept by force, and on 20th August sailed along by their houses as near as possible, when a trumpet was sounded and ordnance fired, but Frobisher could neither see nor hear anything of his boat and men; further unsuccessful efforts and despair of their recovery. All oppressed with sorrow that Frobisher should return home without an evidence or token of any place where he had been. Sudden appearance of a number of boats and men of the country coming towards the ship; measures of precaution to receive them; signs of friendship; small presents given from the ship's side to one of them; endeavour of one of the mariners to take him and his boat with a boat hook; the man suspicious, but suddenly seized by the captain, and by main force pulled on board while in the act of receiving the present of another bell. Signs made to bring the five Englishmen when he should be set at liberty, “but he would not seem to understand his meaning, and therefore he was still kept in the ship with sure guard.” All this was done within arrow–shot of his fellows, who departed in great haste, howling like wolves or other beasts. Stay of the ship two days, but no news of the missing men or boat. Resolution considering their weak state, having but 13 men and boys left in the ship, to sail for England with this strange man prisoner, which they did on 25th August, having sight of Friezland on their way. Great storms. In sight of the Orkney Isles on 25th September; arrival at Harwich in safety on 2d October, and at London on 9th October [1576], and “there were joyfully received with the great admiration of the people, bringing with them their strange man and his boat, which was such a wonder unto the whole city and to the rest of the realm that heard of it, as seemed never to have happened the like great matter, to any man's knowledge.” Lok is not able to give Frobisher his due commendation for this great and strange attempt so well accomplished, but leaves it to others better able to do so. Description of the person and manners of this strange man,—very broad face and very fat and full in body; legs short and small, and out of proportion; long hanging coal–black hair, tied above his forehead; little eyes and a little black beard; skin of a dark sallow, much like the tawny Moors, “or rather to the Tartar nation, whereof I think he was;” countenance sullen or churlish, but sharp. [Nineteen pages and a quarter. A different and fuller account in many particulars of Frobisher's first voyage to either Sail's or Capt Best's accounts, printed in Hakluyt, III., 52 and 73. Mutilated by fire. British Museum, Otho, VIII, fols. 41–43 and 46–53.]
1576?28. Petition of Martin Frobisher to the Queen. That in respect of his late discoveries to the North–west, and his great charges, letters patent may be granted to him and his heirs for ever, appointing him High Admiral of those seas already or hereafter to be discovered by him, with government by land of all people in those discovered parts; also five per cent, upon the clear gain of every thing brought from such lands, and one per cent, to his heirs for ever; also, privilege to make free yearly of this voyage six persons, and to receive one ton freight of every hundred tons brought from thence. [One page. Indorsed “Mr. Martin Furbisher's petitions to hir Matie to be grawnted to him in respect of his travayle allready and hereafter to be bestowed in discoverie of new lands.” Domestic, Eliz., Vol. GXIX., No. 31. Cal., p. 572.].
1576?29. Note of the provision and furniture necessary for the second voyage for the discovery of Cathay, &c.; total estimated amount, 6,280l.; for one ship of 140 tons, one of 120 tons, two barks of 25 tons each, and five shallop boats with tackle and furniture, 2,320l.; victuals for 180 men for eighteen months, 2,160l.; wages, 600l.; and clothes, kerseys, cottons, friezes, tin, lead, copper, kettles, and other merchandise, 1,200l. A marginal note adds, “a great piece of this charge cut off, for there went but one ship and two barks in this voyage.” [The charges for this voyage were 4,350l. See 24th Dec., 1577.]
On the inner page are the
Heads of a petition to the Queen. For a grant of incorporation by letters patent to the first venturers and their successors. Mr. Frobisher to govern the men. For a warrant to take ships and victuals at reasonable prices, and press men at reasonable wages. For power to appoint officers for the good government of the Company. That ships may be ready to depart on their voyage 10th of March next, and that a secret commission may supply Mr. Frobisher's and Mr. Hawlle's [Christopher Hall, master of the Gabriel] charges “upon any mishap, and to be kept secret until time of need.” [Together, one page and a half. Indorsed, “A note of the charges of the provisions for the 2 voyage for the discovery of Cathay. The petitions of the adventurers thither for an incorporation.” Domestic, Eliz., Vol. CXI., No. 49. Cal., p. 540.]
1576.30. “Articles of grant from the Queen's Majesty to the Company of Cathay,” with marginal notes by Lord Burghley [printed in brackets]. All the first venturers, with Michael Lok and Martin Frobisher, in the first voyage, to be one company and corporation for ever [ “all things to be granted to be compared in form with the charter of Muscovia ”], to be named the Company of Cathay, with power to admit others, to keep courts, choose a governor, two consuls and twelve assistants for three years, and afterwards two governors, four consuls, and twenty–four assistants, to be elected every three years. Authority to make laws, levy fines, and imprison; to appoint one or two Serjeants, revoke former laws, have a common seal, sue in any court, purchase lands and tenements to the value of 100l. rent, sell and make leases, possess and enjoy all their goods, and do all things as amply as any other corporation. Sole privilege to pass and trade through all seas and countries, between the northwest and south, and in whatever part of the world, which, before the late voyage of discovery made by Martin Frobisher to the north–westward, had been unknown or net commonly frequented [ “as much hereof as shall not be contrary to the former charters of the merchants of Muscovia, to be accorded. ”] Forfeiture of shipping and goods of those so passing not free of the corporation. Power to repulse all who disturb or intermeddle in their trade. Privileges of customs. In consideration of his “industry, good direction, and great travail in the first voyage lately attempted by Martin Frobisher, gent,” Michael Lok of London, mercer, to be the first Governor of the Company for life, and because “of his great cost, charges, and venture” to receive to his own use for ever 1 per cent, upon all goods exported from thence. Martin Frobisher, for his “industry, good order, and great travail* in his late voyage, to be Admiral of all new discoveries for life, and for “his good service” to have also 1 per cent, for ever upon all goods exported. Male children of the first adventurers and their heirs to be admitted to the privileges of the Company gratis. [Four pages. Indorsed 1576, and as above. Domestic, Eliz., Vol. CX., No. 21. Cal., p. 533.]
1576.31. “Articles consented and fully agreed by the Company of Cathay.” Michel Lok to be governor of the Company for six years, A B. to be consuls, assistants, and agent, and Edmond Hogan treasurer for three years. Martin Frobisher to be “General Captain by sea and Admiral of the ships and navy of the Company” during life, with the yearly stipend of (left blank), and he and Lok to have one per cent, upon goods exported on account of the Company. A single share to be 100l. stock; no person to have above five shares. Liberty to the first adventurers to put in double stock. New stock to be wound up every three years. Persons admitted to the next coming voyage to pay 30l. towords the charges and losses sustained by the first voyage. Power to Lok and Frobisher to admit five persons each to the freedom of the Company gratis. No one to be admitted for three years after this next voyage, when a fine of 200l. must be paid for the benefit of the whole Company. A warehouse, officers, and servants to be hired, goods to be marked [mark]. Male children of the first adventurers, and their heirs, to be admitted free; any one dying without male issue may will his freedom. [Two pages. Endorsed “1576. Articles of Agreement between the Company of Kathai.” Burghley has added these names: Sir Thos. Gresham, Alderman Duckett, (sic), Edm. Huggyn [Hogan], Wm. Bond, Wm. Byrd, [A.] Jenckynson, Mr. Randolphe, Sir Win. Wynter, Sir Humphrey Gylberte, Jenckynson, Mr. Holstock, Gunston. Domestic, Eliz., Vol. CX., No 22. Cal., p. 533.]
1577.32. Brief note of the charges of the Ayde, the Gabriel, and the Michael, for the second voyage for Cathay, &c. The amount, 4400l., is “guessed very near the truth, for that the accounts are not yet brought in perfectly.” The subscribed stock, 3,000l., whereof is yet received but 2,500l. Michael Lok beseeches that the adventurers will take order presently to discharge the remainder, 1,400l., owing to divers men for things supplied for the voyage. [One page. Endorsed, “A brief note of the charge and furniture of the three ships sent to Cathay this second voyage,” and in another hand,” set downe by gesse, imperfect.” Domestic Eliz., Vol. CXTK., No. 33. Cal., p. 573. Frobisher started on his second voyage 26 May 1577, and returned to Milford Haven 23 September following, see Settle's account in Hakluyt, III., p. 56.]