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Document Number: AJ-031
Author: Hawkins, John, Sir, 1532-1595
Title: Third Troublesome Voyage Made with the Jesus of Lubec, 1567-1568
Source: Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 135-148.
Pages/Illustrations: 16 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595), a cousin of Sir Francis Drake, was born in Plymouth, England. Hawkins inherited a small fleet of merchant ships and was responsible for England’s entrance into the North Atlantic slave trade when he broke the Spanish monopoly in the early 1560s. His successes as a merchant sea captain and slave trader elevated him to positions of power as a politician and naval administrator, where he served as one of the chief architects of the Elizabethan navy.

Hawkins served as a member of Parliament for Plymouth from 1571-1583. In 1571, he exacted a measure of revenge on the Spanish for the ill treatment described in the text presented here. Pretending to support the Spanish ambassador in a plot to place Mary, Queen of Scots, on the English throne, Hawkins accepted a large bribe, revealed the plot, and then used his profits to equip privateers to prey on Spanish commerce. In 1577, he was appointed treasurer of the English Royal Navy. He received a knighthood for preparing the fleet to meet the Armada in 1588. In 1595, he once again set sail in the company of Sir Francis Drake to prey on Spanish shipping and settlements in the West Indies. He died at sea on November 12, 1595.

Hawkins’ Third Expedition, 1567-1568

This disastrous expedition by John Hawkins was his third voyage seeking commercial gain by selling African slaves to the Spanish settlements of the West Indies. He left Plymouth October 2, 1567, for Africa, where the inhabitants violently resisted his efforts to capture slaves. After succeeding in kidnapping Africans to be sold as slaves in the West Indies, Hawkins sailed to the eastern coast of Mexico. Here the Spanish fleet attacked him and Drake while they were at the port of Veracruz. The Spanish at first feigned assistance to help Hawkins rebuild his ships, which had been damaged in a severe storm, but soon attacked the English vessels. Hawkins and another ship escaped from the bay at Veracruz but the Spanish killed the English sailors that were trapped on shore and attempted to pursue Hawkins. Of the six ships in the English fleet only two, those captained by Drake and Hawkins, made their way back to England, which they reached on January 25, 1568.

This account is notable not only for its firsthand description of slave stealing and selling, but also for the lack of any intimation of disgrace attached to these activities. It also provides important insight into the beginning of the long quarrel between England and Spain that led to open war in 1585.

Document Note

This edition comes from a reprint of Hawkins’ account published by the Hakluyt Society in 1878.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

We have included here accounts of Hawkins’ second and third voyages. For an excerpt from a report on Hawkins’ first voyage (from Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade, vol. 1, pp. 44-47; originally published as The First Voyage of John Hawkins, 1562-1563), see

For portraits of Hawkin, see the National Maritime Museum web site at

Britain’s Channel 4 history web site on pirates contains a useful biography of Hawkins at pirates1.html

Harry Kelsey's Sir John Hawkins: Queen Elizabeth’s Slave Trader (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003) is the standard modern biography.

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