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This is page 6 of a 13 page article. Go to previous page. Go to Introduction.

II. Thomas Doughtie: the Martyr – The Atlantic Crossing Edit

Whatever may have passed in Plymouth, once the fleet had left in earnest, matters seemed to go smoothly well after they reached the shores of Africa. The claim that the relationship between Drake and Doughtie was already strained by the gentleman’s boasting is not supported by a careful reading of the source documents; authors like Coote (102) who claim that trouble was already brewing invariably cite statements made by Doughtie while he was exiled to the Swan weeks, perhaps months later. When Doughtie takes his soldiers out for training at Cape Blanco, there is no evidence of any “tampering” with the men (as claimed in Temple xxvii) or of taking “the opportunity to spread anti-Drake propaganda,” (Silverberg 260). Coote advances an interesting hypothesis, however – perhaps the very competence in military leadership that Cooke and Fletcher spoke of so highly was enough to fuel Drake’s nascent paranoia that Doughtie was a rival capable of taking over the fleet (Coote 103). This assumes, however, that Drake was unfamiliar with Doughtie’s military skills in Ireland; being no fool, it is more likely that Drake knew exactly how capable Doughtie was from the outset.

It is clear that after Cape Blanco, Doughtie is still in Drake’s trust, for Cooke reports that he and Wynter are sent ashore to lead an expedition of some 70 men to gain provisions on the Isle of Mayo – an incident which is also mentioned in the Hakluyt account and by Edward Cliffe, both of whom speak as little of Doughtie as possible. During this expedition, Doughtie allegedly said or did at least one of the things reported in Ned Bright’s deposition, but what that might be is unclear, since the testimony at this point is jumbled concerning what supposedly happened in Plymouth, on the Pelican and on “the Ile of Man.” This is, of course, if one assumes that by “Ile of Man” (which the fleet obviously did not visit) Bright meant “Isle of Mayo.” Even if what he says is taken as true – and his inability to remember the name of the isle where the incident took place does not speak highly for his competence as a witness - Doughtie is guilty only of boasting to Bright and not of some wider conspiracy. The incident where Doughtie tries to intercede for Bright’s sake after his falling out with Leage must also have happened at some point before January 30th, as it is clear from the context that Doughtie, Bright and Drake are all still on board the Pelican. The import of this incident will be explored at length later; suffice it to say that little seems ominous in Doughtie’s alleged attempt to smooth things over between Bright and Drake (Documents 172). Whatever may have passed between Doughtie and Bright, Drake still held the gentleman adventurer in high enough esteem to give him command of the prize ship that was captured somewhere off the coast of Santiago. It was on board this ship that Doughtie’s troubles really began.

An incident was to happen upon the newly renamed Mary which was, for Doughtie, surely a no-win situation. Drake had given orders that no one was to meddle with the cargo of the prize ship – probably quite a good idea since one of the primary items it carried was wine. John Wynter was to speak of the “Discommodities it bred though disorder” (Kelsey 97). Unfortunately, the first to meddle was Thomas Drake, Drake’s younger brother, who Cooke would describe as “not the wysest man in Christendom” (191). Young Drake openly broke into a chest, which put Doughtie in a conundrum, for Thomas Drake begged him not to report the offense to his brother. Doughtie’s solution was to tell Drake the truth, but promise Thomas Drake to play down the incident (192).

True to the courtier that he was, Doughtie attempted to navigate a difficult situation with diplomacy; it might have worked if he did not already have enemies plotting against him. Why the trumpeter John Brewer hated Doughtie is unclear; since we know that he was also Hatton’s man (Kelsey 83), it is possible that the grudge originated even before the fleet left England. In Cooke’s narrative, Ned Bright’s reason for resenting Doughtie is revealed much later by Drake to John Doughtie after Thomas is already dead: Thomas Doughtie gossiped that Bright’s wife had “an yle name in Cambridge” (210). Drake mockingly implies that Doughtie lied, but even if Doughtie had delivered a truthful report from his days at university, it may have been enough to shame Bright into a desire for revenge.

What Bright and Brewer did is set down in the account of Francis Fletcher. Before Doughtie could get to Drake, the two men intercepted him with a tale that Doughtie himself had broken into the hold. Drake was furious, and when a nonplussed Doughtie reported the theft by Drake’s brother, Drake flew into a rage, seeing it as an attempt to shift the blame onto his own kin, thus dishonoring his own name. By the time the truth about Doughtie’s "stolen goods" was revealed – he had in his possession some gloves, a few coins and a ring freely given to him by some of the Portuguese prisoners in front of other witnesses (Drake 62 Fletcher note), the damage had been done. As Cooke tells it, from that point on, Drake’s dislike of Doughtie grew so quickly that “a man of any judgement would verily thinke that his love towards hym in England was more in brave words then harty good will or frindly love” (192).

Some argue that the two accounts of Fletcher and Cooke are different versions of the same story rather than seeing them as related incidents (for example, Sugden 103-104). In this case, one or the other of the accounts must be dismissed, usually Cooke’s on the grounds that Drake could not be so filled with petty spite and so prey to vacillation. Sugden’s assertion that, in effect, it is easier to believe Drake a soft-hearted fool who wanted to trust the scheming Doughtie than it is to believe Tom Drake was a thief and Leonard Vicarye capable of mediation is puzzlingly insulting to Drake’s intelligence. Those who accept Fletcher’s version of the story as the sole truth usually elide his comment that the Portuguese effects Doughtie had in his possession were freely given in view of witnesses, and do not take into account that gifts from prisoner to jailer in assurance of good treatment were the custom of the time. Many authors follow Coote’s assessment that Doughty was sufficiently “mean-minded” to accept these gifts (105), but given the culture of generosity that pervaded Elizabethan court life, to refuse them might have been perceived as an insult. Indeed, Drake himself exchanges such gifts with the hidalgo de Zarate off the shores of Mexico, with Drake, obviously, getting much the better of the deal. Drake’s fury over the “theft” of such slight items is explained by saying that even such a small thing as accepting gifts from prisoners compromised the democratic spirit of sharing the spoils upon which the venture depended (Bawlf 87). Interestingly, that sort of code was to become quite popular among pirates during their glory days, and perhaps can serve as yet another example how expectations of proper behavior differed in the world of the privateer and the world of the gentleman. It does seem, however, that Drake made excuses for this sort of self-interest when it served his purposes, as in the section of Hakluyt’s narrative where Drake’s old friend Tom Moone searches a Spanish man who is fleeing for his life, taking a gold chain and jewels (243). Drake himself had few scruples when it came to plunder, and certainly did not treat his men democratically, or even fairly, when it came to dividing the take (Kelsey 393). In any case, the two versions of the story are not contradictory and elucidate each other when combined.

Cooke goes on to report that Leonard Vicarye intercedes for his friend, and a truce is struck. Doughtie, guilty of no wrongdoing, cannot be made to seem dishonored, but young Drake must not be made to look guilty of any wrongdoing, either. So Thomas Drake is given the captaincy of the Mary while Doughtie is to be sent back to the Pelican. Drake steps back from direct command, assuming the role of commander of the fleet, but stays on board the Mary to keep a watchful eye on his brother. Being given the command of the flagship is an increase in Doughtie’s rank and prestige, not a decrease; there is no reason he would feel insulted at a public reverse in his fortunes, as claimed by Coote (109). Not is there any indication in either of the source documents that Doughtie is being sent to the flagship for his own protection from the men who might murder him in his sleep, revenging themselves for his appropriation of the common goods (Ronald 216). In fact, life on the flagship was to prove more dangerous for Doughtie; the gentleman was sent away from his friends into a hornet’s nest of Drake’s “man pirates,” while Drake remained with his brother, Brewer and Bright at his side, regaling him with tales of Doughtie’s evils and playing on the nascent paranoia which Kelsey argues Drake displayed upon every long voyage (295).

The amount of authority given to Doughtie upon his return to the Pelican is a matter of contention. Cooke reports that he was “thowght by the company to have the authoritie of capitayne from Drake,” (192-193) a curious wording. Fletcher says that Drake “sent him in his own stead to the Admirall” and was “thought to be too premptorye and exceded his autority, taking upon him too great a command,” (62, footnote). Even the authorized narrative says that Drake used “him in a manner as another himselfe,” (64). Kelsey’s supposition that Doughtie took charge of the Pelican under Drake’s authority (98) seems fairly well-supported by these sources. However, the unfounded claim that Doughtie usurped command for himself, usually from the ship’s master, Thomas Hord (Hood – who is not made master of the Pelican until Cuttill falls from favor in Argentina), is repeated in a number of texts (for example, Temple xxvii, Silverberg 262). Wilson’s assertion that Doughtie was “placed in charge of the gentlemen adventurers,” (62) reads something into the sources that is not there, unsurprisingly to Doughtie’s detriment. Corbett, despite examining the sources, says that what Drake “intended Doughty’s position to be aboard the Pelican is not quite clear,” (234) a disingenuous statement at best, and one further example of how those commentators favorable to Drake often plead the “obscurity” of the whole Doughtie affair ignoring that John Cooke’s narrative could scarcely be more explicit. In any case, as will be seen, when Doughtie is removed from the Pelican, the controversy is over something quite different than the extent of power he assumed for himself in Drake’s absence.

Fletcher’s statement that the men showed resentment towards Doughtie’s command may refer to one of the documents brought forth at Doughtie’s trial: “The sume of Thomas Doughtie his oration upon the pellican when he came from the price to the pellican to Remayne the companie being called by the Botteswain together,” (Harleian mss. 6221). This speech is cited as evidence of Doughtie’s tendency towards mutiny by many authors, so it is worth examining in depth, always bearing in mind that these are not Doughtie’s exact words but the recollection of an anonymous witness:

My masters, the cause why I call you together is for that I have somewhat to say unto you from the General. The matter is this, that whereas there hath been great travails, fallings out, and quarrels among you and that every one of you have been uncertain whom to obey, because there were many who took upon them to be masters, one commanding to such, another one forbidden, another commanded, therefore hath the General by his wisdom and discretion, set down order that all things might be the better done with peace and quietness. And for that he hath a special care of this place, being his admiral and chief ship and indeed his treasury for the whole fleet, as he the said General had appointed sufficient men to rule and govern the other ships, that order might be kept, so because our said General could not be in two places at once and must needs look to the prize which must do us all good, he hath sent me as his friend whom he trusteth to take charge in his place, giving unto me special commandment to signify unto you that all matters by-past are forgiven and forgotten; upon this condition, that we have no more of your evil dealing hereafter. And for the safer accomplishing hereof I am to tell you, that you are to obey only one master in the absence of your General, who is to direct you in your business, as touching navigation, which is Mr. Cuttill, whom you know in this case to be a sufficient man. And for other matters, as the General hath his authority from her highness the Queen’s majesty and her Council such as hath not been committed almost to any subject afore this time: - to punish at his discretion with death or other ways offenders; so he hath committed the same authority to me in his absence to execute upon those which are malefactors. Wherein I will not disappoint his expectation and credit which he hath and doth look for at my hands, for the respect of any person: but whosoever offendeth (by God’s body) shall feel the smart. Be honest men: by God’s body and by the faith of an honest gentleman I love you and mean to do you good. And I hope that a great company conceive of me that I will be rather your friend than your enemy, wherefore I wish as an honest gentleman that you will so use yourselves that I may not have cause to lay that upon you which I have power to do, and therefore desire you will give me cause to think well of you. I make an end. (qtd. in Corbett 234-235).

In all likelihood, this text is introduced at the trial to prove that, by Doughtie’s own admission, Drake derived his great authority from the Queen. To see this oration as incitement to mutiny, or even as undermining of Drake’s command is a clear, if not deliberate, misreading. Corbett sees in it “an attempt to circumscribe the master’s authority” and “usurp control of the ship,” (236) a puzzling assertion since Doughtie is at pains to establish the authority of Thomas Cuttill concerning the day-to-day business of the Pelican. As for usurping control – Drake is absent, and surely there is a reason why ships traditionally have captains as well as masters. Someone has to take command, and nowhere in any of the narratives is there a claim that Drake intended someone other than Doughtie to fill this role. Indeed, a careful reading will show two points worthy of notice: Doughtie explicitly states that his authority derives from Drake, and, far from giving precedence to the privilege of the gentlemen, he urges all present to submit to a proper chain of command. Doughtie is not revealed to be a subversive mutineer, but is rather the same man who drilled the troops at Cape Blanco – a military officer trying to impose proper discipline amongst a group of unruly sailors, who resent and undermine him for his pains.

Indeed, despite the insistence of many of the later histories that Doughtie hatched dire plots on board the Pelican, very few of the actual charges against him at the trial stem from this time period. There is one serious incident during his tenure as captain which must be dealt with at length, since it is one of the few charges of any weight brought against him at his trial. Much has been made of Francis Fletcher’s partisanship towards Doughtie in light of his apparent willingness to testify against him (Vaux xxvi) even to the speculation that this is why Drake will later hang a sign around him saying “ye falsest knave that liveth,” (“Memoranda” 176). But most of the supposed charges Fletcher makes are attestations to innocuous comments, such as Doughtie had invested in the voyage, or had brought Drake to the attention of the court. Many of these statements were made within the hearing of others, and it seems hardly meet to expect a man of God to perjure himself no matter how much he esteems the accused; hostile witnesses are routinely called in any courtroom. But on one occasion something happened which surely caused a moral dilemma for Fletcher: apparently there was mutinous talk amongst the men, and some rumor of a plan to steal away the Pelican. When he requested that Doughtie report the problem to Drake, Doughtie refused, saying, “I shal be suspected,” (“Documents” 165) and earnestly pleading with Fletcher not to go to Drake himself. To Fletcher, this must have seemed a serious dereliction of duty; to the jury at Doughtie’s trial, an indication that Doughtie was trying to hide the sedition and therefore a party to it. But in the context of recent events, it seems clear that Doughtie’s fear was not unjustified. He had learned a bitter lesson about tattling to Drake, apparently concluding that it was best not to get involved lest the accusation land at his feet, just as it had on the Mary.

In both Doughtie’s speech and in Fletcher’s report, there is an indication that some sort of discontent was brewing. The obvious reason could well be the revelation that the fleet was not sailing for Alexandria to trade in currants. It would be disheartening enough for ordinary seamen, used to accepting orders from their commander, to discover that a supposedly short business trip was, in fact, a long and dangerous voyage, but the outrage of the gentlemen would be enormous. In fact, it stretches belief to think they were kept in ignorance, and John Cooke, at the beginning of his narrative, seems to indicate that at least he was well enough aware that the destination of Alexandria was pretended (187). Doughtie, on the other hand, most certainly knew the entire plan, and there is no evidence, as Temple claims, that he was “an active opponent” of it when the real destination was revealed (xxvi). During his time as captain of the Pelican, Doughtie seems to have done little more worth noting than striking up a friendship with the ship’s master, Thomas Cuttill. One could hardly be blamed for forming the opposite impression by reading the plethora of popular Drake biographies, intent on building their narrative from a consistent and escalating pattern of subversive betrayal. Another strategy of Doughtie’s detractors is to portray his tenure of command as relatively short. In truth, we do not know how long he was in command of the Pelican, only that Brewer was absent for a long while before he returned to provoke the incident leading to Doughtie’s dismissal (Cooke 193). We know also that Doughtie was being held on the Swan by the time the fleet reached Brazil. He may have been captain of the Pelican anywhere from a few weeks to almost two months before being relieved of command.

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