East Indies: May 1579

Pages 55-60

Calendar of State Papers Colonial, East Indies, China and Japan, Volume 2, 1513-1616. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1864.

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May 1579

May. 142. “The doings of Capt. Frobisher amongst the Company's business.” He set out on his first voyage from London 20th May, 1576, to discover a passage to Cathay, and arrived at the north coast of Labrador amongst great islands, which he supposed to be the straits between America and Asia. By great disorder or evil government, the people of that country took one of his boats and five men; he brought away a strange man, and returned to Harwich 2d October, 1576, and on 9th to London. Commissioners were appointed to examine him concerning the passage to Cathay, to whom he vouched "absolutely, with vehement words, speeches, and oaths," that he had discovered the straits to Cathay, and found good harbours for all the Queen's navy. His arguments found to be false by his two latter voyages, and the passage left as uncertain as at the beginning. In the first voyage, on a rock half a mile in circuit, named Hall's Island after Christ. Hall, who was the first to land Frobisher remaining ten miles at sea, a black stone was found “as great as a halfpenny loaf,” by Robert Garrard, who was afterwards taken by the people; it was given to Lok, who had it tried by divers men of art, found to be a mineral ore of a gold mine. Knowledge given, to the Queen. “Much marvaile was made,” and Commissioners appointed for setting out a second voyage. Examination of Frobisher and Hall. Frobisher vouched “with great speeches and oaths“ there was enough to be had to lade all the Queen's ships, and he promised to lade all the ships of the second voyage with it. The Queen a great adventurer, the cost of that voyage 5,300l. The ships left London 26th May, 1577. Jonas, Denham, and Gregory, and a number of miners sent. Could find no mines at all; so never after brought home one stone of that rich ore. He wandered about to seek harbour; in four days discovered on the South land Jackman's Sound, but found no mines there to their content; from thence to the North land; in eight days came to a better harbour, they named the Countess of Warwick Sound, and there laded the ships with ore. Great hazard, uncertainty, and charge of this second voyage “attempted by this bold captain.” The chief conduct committed to Frobisher by the Queen's patent, and Commissioners assigned to see him furnished and dispatched. Would needs have had three tall ships and two barks. “No small raging and outrageous speaking” before his departure, as the Commissioners will witness. Would have all authority in his hands alone. Because he could not be furnished to his will, “he flung out of the doors, and swore by God's wounds that he would hip my masters the venturers for it, at which words Capt. Fenton plucked him secretly, and willed him to be modest.” His desire to have some condemned men to leave in Friezland and in his new straits on land, to discover the state of the country and nature of the people. Not one went the voyage, but were set at liberty by him, “for friendship and money.” He took with him 25 men more than his number, and 30 men more were discharged at Harwich and Gravesend by special letters from the Council. His wars with the strange people under colour of peace. John English first set on shore. Account of a fight. Violence used to make prisoners, three or four slain, two women taken, one with her child being brought to England. The people now fly from all traffic and conference with the English, as was evident in the third voyage, and so is lost one of the chief causes of these voyages, viz., the knowledge of the country. His outrageous speech and furious conduct to Hall, master of the Ayde. He would not make any discovery of the country, as he was specially charged, because he could not be at the doing, and “his vainglorious mind will not suffer any discovery to be made without his own presence.” Returned to Milford [Haven] 20th September, 1577, laden with rich ore, worth 60l. a ton as he affirmed with great oaths, “and such plenty of precious stones, diamonds, and rubies, as he had discovered, and brought some with him. No small joy was had of his arrival, and no small increase of his reputation, so as now 12 or 20 men were too few to follow his horse upon this his return.” Trials of the ore. John Broade and the. other gold–smiths of London could find no gold. Jonas' proceedings suspected. Conference with Dr. Burcot. Pension of 100l. a year conferred upon Jonas for life upon condition of his making the ore worth 30l. a ton towards charges, not to be above 10l. a ton. Also pension of 50l. a year to Robt. Denham. Third trial on Tower Hill. Further trials in presence of the Commissioners, and John Dee, [Andrew] Palmer, John Broade, Humphrey Cole, and others, finished on 20th February and 6th March [1578]. The ore found to be worth at least 24l. a ton towards the charges, and so certified to the Privy Council by the Commissioners on 8th March. Frobisher's visit to Lok's house on 15th February, being greatly enraged with the Commissioners. Went to Tower Hill, where "finding Jonas naked at his works, and very sick, almost to death, of infection of the smoke of the minerals," he reviled him, and drew his dagger on him for not having finished his works, that the ships might be prepared for the third voyage. Jonas solemnly vowed never more to go with him to sea; brought to have conference with Dr. Burcot on 10th December [1577], whose dealings Jonas disliked, but Frobisher liked them so well “that he joined entire friendship with them.” Great contention between Burcot and Jonas for mastership of the great works. Pension of 100l. a year granted to Burcot, and a patent to be chief workmaster. The Commissioners' dealings with Jonas in the meantime. Frobisher's duplicity. Burcot's false works proved by means of Robert Denham, described in detail. Burcot showed his proofs to Lord Treasurer Burghley and to Sir Walter Myldemaye, chancellor of the Exchequer, and requested the antimony ore to be delivered to him, the great works to be built presently, the ore at Bristol to be brought hither, and Frobisher speedily dispatched on this new voyage. Upon Burcot's promises “so great a Captain Frobisher was exalted to so great a dominion in his third voyage.” A rich red stone found in the second voyage; Frobisher promised to lade his ships with it in the third voyage, but did not. A unicorn's horn about five feet long found on a little island in Jackman's Sound, and esteemed worth 1,000l., presented to the Queen by Frobisher in his own name, and not in that of the Company to whom it belonged. A ruby of more than an inch square, “a present mete for a prince” found by Jonas amongst the rocks, which Frobisher promised to present to the Queen in Jonas' name, he cannot learn what has become of it; also of many diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and other jewels found in the second voyage which are put up privately. His great vaunt of treasure brought home in the second voyage, and his promises to surmount the riches of the Indies, induced Her Majesty to grant him the lease of a good living, and to give him 100l. to distribute among the men, which is not done. He caused the Company 100l. superfluous charges by keeping the Ayde at Bristol, and would not make an inventory of the goods there. His waste and pilfering of the goods on the voyage. Causes of the third voyage, chiefly because of the great riches of the mines of gold found in the new country, and the open passage by sea to Cathay, which Frobisher vouched to be by him discovered and made plain. Directions of the Council to the Commissioners, 12th March, 1578, to proceed with a third voyage. Hereupon Frobisher “grew into such a monstrous mind, that a whole kingdom could not contai n it; but already, by discovery of a new world, he was become another Columbus.” Through Frobisher's vouching that the French King was arming twelve ships to take possession of the straits and fortify the mines there, he was set forward with eleven ships and 100 men, well furnished, to fortify and inhabit on his third voyage, which cost the Company 13,000l. Left London May 1578. His great abuses in badly victualling the ships, and providing 120 men from the "West country; many changed by favour for shoemakers, tailors, musicians, gardeners, and other artificers. He took four ships and 100 men more than were appointed by the Commissioners, at a cost of 3,000l. more to the Company than was looked for. After Captain Fenton was chosen to be the head of the men left to inhabit, Frobisher feared the fame of that enterprize would dash the glory and fame of his former doing, “and plainly said to Chas. Jackman at Harwich, that they should not inhabit there.” Contention between Frobisher and Fenton in Meta Incognita; great wrong done to the Earl of Warwick, who preferred them both together to the Queen. Reasons why Frobisher overthrew Fenton's service, which cost the Company 6,000l. Frobisher placed Andrew Dyar, a most unworthy man, to make discovery of the country they should inhabit, and seek out the way to Cathay; but the Commissioners appointed Charles Jackman in his stead. Much controversy caused by his making Alex. Creeke, his kinsman, boatswain of the Ayde. Would not punish, but rather maintained the disobedience of Edward Robinson and others against Christ. Hall, Robt. Davis, and Capt. Fenton; said his instructions from the Council were but the device of Fenton and Lok, and were never read by their lordships, and refused conference and council with Capts. Yorke, Best, and others. Carried his ships to a wrong place; “through his obstinate ignorance” he led the fleet along a coast unknown, enduring many storms in extreme danger amongst rocks and ice 18 days. Would not suffer any further discovery to be made of the passage, nor accept the services of Capt. Hall and Jackman, who put him in mind sundry times, “his mind being so vain–glorious that he will not suffer any discovery to be made without his own presence * * * * so that service which was the chief intent of the Company and first cause of the beginning of all these costly voyages, is utterly frustrated and dead.” He commanded the ships out of a safe port in Warwick Sound to a dangerous road in Bear's Sound, and by this means the whole fleet was scattered and came home straggling one and two together, and far apart. Return of the Thomas of Ipswich, having sustained great damage by ice, about a month before any of the others, with false news that they were all lost. Arrival of Frobisher at Cornwall 25th Sept. 1578, the first news of Iris safety; long time after all the rest arrived in sundry places. He immediately repaired to the Court at Richmond, and from thence to London "whereupon was no small joy conceived on all parties," for the safety of the men, though many died of sickness, but especially for the treasure he brought, the ships being laden with rich gold ore worth he said 60l. and 80l. a ton. “Whatsoever it be must be thankfully accepted, for he hath done his good will to bring the best that he could find, besides such number of jewels and precious stones as he talked of, and perchance secretly hath found and felt” Discharge of the ore at Dartford. Jonas ready to work it with four workmen sent for out of Saxony and Germany. Commission appointed 29th October, 1578, to see good proofs made of the ore from both voyages. Jonas's first trial of two tons on 8th November, which “proved very evil;” a second trial on 12th and 13th November, in presence of Sir Thos. Gresham and the other Commissioners, proved somewhat reasonable, but far from the riches lo oked for. The ore grew into great discredit and much hurt followed to the adventurers. Frobisher continually soliciting the furtherance of the works “that he might have some goodness to carry to Her Majesty for a knighthood which he hoped for, but the matter happened far contrary to his expectation.” His general misrule and abuse of Captain Fenton, upon whom he drew his dagger. Unlading of the Ayde and refusal to make an inventory of her. His abuse of the treasurer and officers at Dartford for the keys of the work–houses. Swore that Mr. Lok nor no man else should be porter of that house. Adventurers withhold their money due for payment of the ship's freight; only the Queen's part of 1,150l. and Sec. Wilson's of 57l. paid to Lok; he is unable to supply Frobisher with any more money. Frobisher's slanderous reports of Lok; on 20 November, [1578], Frobisher came, with 40 men, to his house in a fury, accusing him of cozening Lord Oxford of 1,000l., of making false accounts, and other things. A new audit of Lok's accounts shows his doings to be true. Frobisher pays more wages than are due, and charges the Company with what men and how he likes. His small venture in the voyage and great wages for his service, yet he reports he has had nothing at all of the Company. Divers have brought in all such books, charts, and writings as they have made, “which remain with Michael Lok for the Company, appearing in a book register kept thereof, but Frobisher refuses to show his doings; it seems he has kept no account of either of these voyages. He brought home no samples or assays of the mines found as he had special commission to do; and detains the mineral and jewel stones had of the men in the Ayde, and a bushel collected by Chris. Hall from other ships; as also the instruments of navigation belonging to the Company. The great havoc and waste of provisions for the 100 men to inhabit with Captain Fenton, Second trial of ore by Jonas on 29th December in presence of Frobisher, “who made a great haste thereof to have presented it unto Her Majesty for a new year's gift to bring him a knighthood,” but the work succeeded evil. Another great proof on 20 January [1579] in presence of Frobisher alone by the Commissioners' order, the ore found to be worth 10l. a ton, “which was somewhat comfortable” Frobisher abuses Lok, who had charge of the accounts, and took the keys of the workhouses from Edward Castelyne. Disorder in the works at Dartford without account of Jonas's third proof. Further trial made by Jonas at Tower Hill 22 March, 1579, before the new Commissioners, Sir Thos. Gresham, Sir Lionell Duckett, Capt. Fenton, Capt. Yorke, Thos. Allen, and Chris. Hoddesdonn; the ore found to be worth 15l. a ton, “And so these works rest for this time which God grant may proceed with good success.” All things at Dartford taken charge of by inventory on 16th April, 1579, by Edward Sellman, a servant of the Commissioners, who was beaten and had his head nearly cloven with a dagger by Frobisher. Sellman has complained to the Commissioners, “and so the matter resteth as it is.” Offer made in writing 18th April, 1579, by Jonas, Denham, and the Dutchman, to buy all the 1,300 tons of ore at Dartford at 20 marks the ton, and to work it themselves at their own charges. Lok desires to have his part of the ore, being 150 tons. Overthrow of the bargain through Captain Frobisher, and great storms raised both in the court and city against Lok, Jonas, and the workmen. Letter received by Frobisher from Duke Casimir, that he would send shortly six very good workmen out of Germany. Jonas condemned by Frobisher to be a knave and his workmen fools. His deceitful practices with Jonas and Denham. The works at Dartford lie still dead as yet, to the no small damage of the Company. Summary of Frobisher's disorderly dealings, his arrogant and obstinate governme nt at sea, insolence to the Commissioners who are weary of his company, prodigality in the Company's business, full of lying talk, impudent of tongue, and perchance the most unprofitable of all that have served the Company, as his accounts will declare. Statement of Capt. Frobisher's account, showing that his doings have damaged the Company about 10,000l. [Forty pages. Domestic, Eliz., Vol. CXXXI., No. 20. Cal., p. 625. Another copy in the Brit. Mus., Lansdowne, C., fol. 1.]