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Journal of History and Classics: Doubting Thomas: Supporting Data: Repercussions

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This is page 10 of a 13 page article. Go to previous page. Go to Introduction.

II. Thomas Doughtie: the Martyr – Repercussions at Sea and at Home Edit

Doughtie had reason to be concerned about the fate of his friends. The harassment begins almost immediately. The most obvious target is his brother, John. The day following the execution, Drake swore to the assembled company that the strife would stop, and anyone who struck a blow against another would lose his hand. Later that day, as John Doughtie was walking alone on the beach, obviously in mourning for his brother, Ned Bright attacked him with a ruler, taunting him to tell what he knew of Bright’s wife. John Doughtie bore the blows without returning them, asking Bright to leave him be, but Bright persisted until the ruler broke against Doughtie’s arm, then poked him in the face with the broken end, impaling him with a splinter. When Doughtie complained to Drake, Drake dismissed the action, refusing to punish Bright and revealing his source of resentment as the supposed comments made by Thomas Doughtie about Bright's wife. By the time Drake encounters Don Francisco de Zárate off the coast of Mexico, John is basically under house arrest, for although he sits with the rest of the company, he is not allowed to leave the ship and is kept under close supervision. What is, in retrospect, surprising is that Drake allows John Doughtie to live at all, having accused him in the past of witchcraft and murder. It is tempting to speculate that in those mysterious few moments of conversation heard by no one, Doughtie exacted a promise from Drake to spare his brother in return for his show of compliance at the execution.

Surprisingly, the next to face Drake’s wrath is Ned Bright, who, some writers speculate, is censured for not telling a believable tale to the jury. Cooke believes that Bright is being banished, much as Doughtie was, for displeasing Drake by being sent away to the Marigold (205). The usual assumption, however, is that Bright is made master of the Marigold (in Fletcher’s account, captain, but this is unlikely) as a reward for his loyal service (or perjury, depending on the bias of the reporter). Kelsey ventures another, quite logical, supposition – having employed Bright so successfully as a spy against Doughtie, Drake now assigns him to keep an eye on Doughtie’s friend, Captain John Thomas of the Marigold (112).

Drake’s next attack is against John Cooke himself, who is forced to remain ashore for a fortnight with no blankets or winter clothing. “I know not wherefore excepte it were that I harde Mastar Dowghty speke more good of hym [Drake] then evar he wyll here aftar deserve agaynst any man,” (Cooke 212). There are others Drake threatens, using a comparison to Doughtie whenever he wants to strike fear into the hearts of his crew. Most especially he attacks Worral, whose “case was worse than Dowghties,” remarkable for the fact that he was one of Drake’s confederates during the Doughtie trial. Drake also singles out one John Audley for the same treatment (Cooke 215). The men on the Elizabeth are next to face Drake’s wrath for their sympathies, promising to hang those who still had mutinous inclinations; again he attacks Worral, and also Wynter's aide Vlysses, who Drake claims is deserving of being hanged or having his ears cut off, “but wherefore truly I do not know,” avers Cooke (217).

Enough, is enough, apparently. Whereas the Marigold sinks in the Straits of Magellan, the Elizabeth disappears: due to bad weather on the eighth of October, they lose sight of the newly renamed Golden Hinde. They wait until November first in the Straits and then head home for England; according to Cooke, this decision was Wynter’s, but later, at the inquiry, Wynter claims he wanted to continue on to a pre-arranged meeting place, but his crew – understandably tired of the hardships and sick of the abuse - demanded that they turn back. Wynter confirms Cooke’s accounts of Drake’s threats and his exploitation of Doughtie’s death, “...his wordes and threateninges many tymes tended there unto by open spetches as by an example of a gentellman whome he executed afterwards,” (quoted in Andrews 725).

The last Doughtie partisan to feel the heat of persecution was the preacher, Francis Fletcher. Drake’s ire at Fletcher increased during the course of the voyage, which was certainly amongst the reasons Drake most curiously assumed more and more of the ministerial duties of the fleet himself. Fletcher’s manuscript indicates his tendency to interpret the fleet’s misfortune in the Straits as God’s judgment for the unjust killing of Doughtie. He describes the sinking of the Marigold: “...the storme being so outrageous and furious, the bark Marigold, wherein Edward Bright, one of the accusers of Thomas Doubty, was captayne, with 28 soulse, were swallowed up with the horrible and unmercifull waves, or rather mountanes of the sea, which chanced in the second watch of the night, wherein myself and John Brewer, our trumpeter, being in watch, did hear their fearefull cryes, when the hand of God came upon them...” On the side of the manuscript is written: “Marked judgement against a false witness,” (Drake 79 Fletcher footnote). Fletcher also recounts a curious incident concerning John Brewer:

...wee had a strange and sodaine accident, for John Brewer, our trumpeter, standing upon the poope soundeing his trumpet, being now as great a calme as it had been a storme, without anny wind to moove or shake a silken thredd, most strangely a rope was so tossed and violently hurled against his body that it cast his body over into the sea, with that strength that tenn men with all their powers could not haue don more to a block of his weight, for by estimation his body lighting in the water, was eight times his length distant from the direct point below to the place where hee fell, where labouring mightely for life (the boat not being redy) many ropes were cast round about him and upon him some, but he could not catch hold of anny one at all to help himselfe, till he called one by name to cast one to him, which no sooner was done, but he received it, and was saved at the last pinch, or, as it were, at the end of all hope. (Drake 81 Fletcher footnote)

Again, there is a note on the side of the manuscript: “His judgement worth noteing.” If Fletcher was as vocal on ship as he was in his journal, it is not terribly difficult to see how such interpretations could get on Drake’s nerves; their apocalyptic nature, liable to induce panic, were realistically more likely to stir men to mutiny than anything Doughtie had said. By the time they reach the Celebes, Drake has had it with Fletcher, attaching him with a leg iron to the forecastle, and bizarrely, excommunicating him. Unfortunately, Fletcher’s own journal ends in October of 1578 in Peru; a promised second part is lost to history. The exact reason for Drake’s treatment of Fletcher, and why he hung a sign around his arm reading, “Frances Fletcher, ye falsest knave that liveth,” is unknown although speculation in both directions has tied it to the Doughtie incident – that Drake was angered with Fletcher for falsely testifying against Doughtie (Benson 169 cites Anderson Captain Cook’s Voyages as the source of this story), or that Drake was angry with Fletcher for defying him in his continued protestation of the execution (Corbett Tudor Navy 322).

There is little record of how the Doughtie incident was received in England immediately following the return of Drake. A letter of Pedro de Rada, written in August of 1580, a month before Drake’s homecoming, records a report which had reached France: Drake feared to “go to England on account of having beheaded a noble gentleman whom he had carried in his company,” (qtd. in Temple xxxv). This story had to originate with one of the disgruntled men who returned with the Elizabeth. More likely it was wishful thinking; Drake seems to have showed little remorse and met little – overt – resistance.

Perhaps Drake’s greatest worry was facing Sir Christopher Hatton; upon arrival Drake immediately dispatched John Brewer to his master with the news. It is widely reported that Drake changed the name of the Pelican to the Golden Hinde as a gesture to placate Sir Christopher Hatton for the death of his secretary. This gesture hardly seems to fit the magnitude of the occurrence, but it was apparently effective, or, perhaps unnecessary in light of the return on Hatton’s investment. As far as is preserved through Hatton’s personal documents, Doughtie’s execution is never mentioned, and no reaction from him is recorded. Most of Hatton’s biographers avoid the subject, perhaps wishing to avoid the taint of Hatton’s association with a disreputable character, or perhaps at a loss to explain why Hatton would have no response to the death of his secretary. Nicholas simply does not discuss the circumnavigation, but Vines discusses Hatton’s interest in exploration and his successful investment in Drake’s venture. She solves the awkward problem of Doughtie by eliding him from Hatton’s life completely, reporting incorrectly that Hatton had but two associates on Drake’s voyage: John Brewer and John Thomas (126). And Vines also advances on two occasions that the renaming of the Pelican was done simply because Hatton was an important investor (73,125). In fact, according to an estimate prepared by Brooks, Hatton’s investment was quite small. Noting the oft-repeated figure that the investors received a 4700% return, and that Hatton’s share was £2300, he calculates that Hatton invested £50 (192-193) – only ten percent of Doughtie’s probable investment.

Hatton most certainly forgave Drake his actions, for it is known that he introduced Drake to the Inner Temple, and also advocated Drake’s later endeavors in his correspondence. It is difficult, however, to take Hatton’s lack of recorded response as any true indication of his initial reaction to Doughtie’s execution. For one, there is no mention of Thomas Doughtie in Sir Christopher Hatton’s correspondence at all; since little of his correspondence before 1578 exists, it is impossible to determine how close he was to his secretary at the outset. For another, Hatton was a man so amiable that he might be called spineless, rarely penning an offensive word to anyone, even those most in disfavor with the queen.

Doughtie’s other friends at court also meet the incident with a stony silence. There is no mention of it in John Dee’s diaries, but there is an interesting note from March 25th of 1581: “at Mortlak cam to me Hugh Smyth, who had returned from Magellan straits…” Thus Dee’s first direct information about the voyage comes from someone most definitely sympathetic to Doughtie. Dee is also visited by “the yong Mr. Hawkins, who had byn with Sir Francis Drake” on June 17th. Hawkins, as a distant relative of Drake, would most likely have been a Drake partisan on the expedition. Unfortunately, Dee leaves no written record of what he thought of these discussions.

As his occult interests grow, Dee is pulled more and more away from courtly influence until he finally departs for the continent in September of 1583 to devote himself to these studies full time (Woolley 205). Although Elizabeth relied on Dee for astrological recommendations and even advice against sorcery, Dee’s primary interest in involvement with her court seemed to be using his knowledge of cartography to advocate the establishment of English interests as a sort of kingdom of God in the New World (indeed, it is to Dee that we probably owe the term “British Empire”). This end was advanced by his involvement in the exploratory ventures of the time. Perhaps his enthusiasm was dampened by Frobisher’s disappointing findings and Drake’s failure to find the “Straits of Anian” if indeed this was ever one of Drake’s objectives. Whether Dee’s silence on the Doughtie affair can be attributed to tacit approval of Drake’s conduct, an unwillingness to speak out in light of Drake’s advancement (Dee, like Hatton, was known for his exceptional tact) or simple indifference is unknown to us.

Lord Burghley, on the other hand, is clear in his condemnation of Drake’s piratical endeavors. He turns down a significant gift – ten bars of gold – on moral principles (Kelsey 217). If Doughtie was, in fact, Burghley’s spy, he would undoubtedly be displeased, but even if not, one can well imagine his reaction should he discover that the charge resulting in Doughtie's condemnation and death was that of speaking with him! Nevertheless, Doughtie is never mentioned by name in the papers of Burghley . It is worthy of note that two of Burghley’s biographers assume Doughtie was working as Burghley’s “secret agent” although they produce absolutely no evidence: Dennis calls the Doughtie affair “tragic,” (62-63). Hume impugns Doughtie’s character, calling it “questionable” and claiming that Burghley “bought this man to his interests,” (346). However, he also believes that Drake “hanged” Doughtie “with his own hands,” (347). Neither biographer seems to have looked into the incident very deeply, but it is worth consideration, at least, that they feel Burghley would have objected to Drake’s voyage enough to go to this length.

More recent biographers differ: "He [Burghley] was not wildly enthusiastic about the adventures of the so-called 'sea-dogs,' believing that they were unnecessarily provocative and refusing to accept that they in any way promoted Protestantism. The queen was keen, however, and neither as secretary nor as lord treasurer did he attempt to stand in her way…There is no evidence to substantiate the story that Burghley opposed Drake's voyage of 1577-80, although he did believe that the booty should be restored - advice that Elizabeth immediately ignored" (Loades 162-163). Loades does not mention Doughtie by name; Alford, whose research into Burghley’s papers is exhaustive, does not even mention the circumnavigation. It seems neither author found substantive evidence concerning a plot by Burghley to infiltrate Drake’s voyage. Loades discusses, however, the extent of popular resentment of the power wielded by both William Cecil and his son Robert, summed up by the pejorative term regnum Cecilianum. For this reason, later writers spun fictive histories vilifying the Cecils in print; “Only in recent years have historians disclosed the extent of that misrepresentation,” (Loades 8). It is possible to read the Doughtie affair in light of hostility towards Cecil: Evil Burghley would certainly have employed Evil Doughtie.

Of course the most important response was from the queen herself. Her favor towards Drake is well known; would any wise monarch truly shun a man who both handed her enough money to operate her kingdom for a year’s time and, through his exploits, became an easily marketable patriotic hero? All evidence suggests, however, that she truly liked Drake, at least until later failed endeavors on his part drew her displeasure. Besides knighting him, she did much to advance him socially, with varied effectiveness. Nevertheless, there is evidence that Doughtie’s execution troubled her, for upon the return of one of Drake’s men, Peter Carder, who took eight years to make his way back to England, she examines him for over an hour “...among other thinges of the manner of Master Dowties execution,” (Cummins ‘Golden Knight’ 16).

Despite this, Queen Elizabeth unreservedly takes Drake’s side in the most obvious repercussion from the Doughtie affair: a lawsuit filed by John Doughtie against him. The first notice of the case is a ruling by the Queen’s Bench on whether Doughtie can bring his case to the High Court of Chivalry and Honor. The Court of Chivalry is, as will be seen, the proper court for this case, and it is odd that the case would appear at all in a court of common law – unless Drake were moving to have the case quashed (Senior 294). But “in the face of popular sentiment in his favor, they held that Doughty was entitled to proceed,” (Corbett Tudor Navy 340-341).

The reason John Doughtie must bring his case to the High Court of Chivalry and Honor is that the alleged crime occurred outside of England. This court functioned with two main officers, the Earl Marshall and the Lord High Constable. The Earl Marshall was able to hear cases of chivalry and honor – to wit, whether a gentleman’s arms need be struck for bad conduct. But the post of Lord High Constable concerned more serious violations, specifically when they concerned military actions overseas. It was his post that concerned criminal cases such as John Doughtie sought to bring. Unfortunately, this post had fallen into disuse, and was vacant at the time of Doughtie’s suit. This should have posed no great difficulty – a case of treason occurred in Germany during the reign of Charles I, and a constable was duly appointed (Senior 295). However, according to Sir Richard Hutton, “Petition was made to the Queen by the Heir to make a Constable, but she would not,” (qtd. in Senior 295).

It is telling that the queen did not wish for the case to be heard in front of the Constable and Marshall – perhaps she feared that her newly knighted hero would be called to account. He had already lost his appeal at the Queen’s Bench; furthermore, his dismal prospects are illustrated by a much later incident. After his raid on Cádiz in 1587, William Borough, another man Drake singled out for abuse, is cleared of the charge of deserting Drake’s fleet because he cites Doughtie’s fate as a reason to fear his own: “the Admyrall would have executed upon me his bludthirstie desire as he did upon Dowtey,” (quoted in Kelsey 301). As Senior notes, it would be difficult for a knight to ignore a summons from the Court of Chivalry (294), and Drake had much more to lose than his reputation. There is a footnote to this case, some fifty years later, in 1628: a quote from Sir Edward Coke (according to Squibb, he was John Doughtie’s legal counsel) concerning a debate on martial law cites this case as an example: “Drake slew Doughty beyond sea. Doughty’s brother desired an appeal (ie. a prosecution for murder to be tried by battle) in the Constable’s and Marshal’s Court.” (Quoted in Corbett Tudor Navy 341). The terms “slew” and “murder” are hardly flattering to Drake; this brief reference gives no sense that Drake’s right to “execute” a mutineer is assumed. But the form of justice available to John Doughtie through the Court of Chivalry was not just the 16th century equivalent of a wrongful death suit. It was a literal trial by battle, a longstanding although little-used way for an individual to seek redress for a criminal wrong when the state would not bring charges. Doughtie is asking the court for a legally sanctioned duel, with legal ramifications (indeed, trial by battle was often employed to resolve property disputes). If a trial by battle takes place, not only will the whole affair be made enormously public, Drake stands to lose his life. It is a measure of the depth of John Doughtie’s trauma at witnessing the beheading of his brother, and of his desperation, that he is literally willing to die for the chance to have a public redemption of his brother’s name. But it is not to be.

John Doughtie seeks revenge in other ways. He is the only one of the surviving sailors to refuse to sign a document replying to a list of accusations made against Drake by the Spanish ambassador, Mendoza (Kelsey 217). His behavior becomes rash enough to warrant concern, and Drake obtains a copy of a letter full of scathing invective. “When the Queen did knight Drake, she did then knight the arrantest knave, the vilest villain, the falsest thief and the cruelest murderer that was ever born,” (qtd. in Corbett Tudor Navy 241). Corbett assumes that the person who delivered this letter to Drake is Doughtie’s uncle (there is a note to that effect in the margin of Drake’s letter reporting the whole affair) – and how much the better if Doughtie’s own family turns against the miscreants? In fact, the person named in Drake’s letter is one A. Bradlie, most likely the Alexander Bradley named in Doughtie’s will as being his wife’s uncle, who is to be forgiven a debt of £18. The letter is not the only problem; John Doughtie has indicated to all and sundry that he intended to make the matter public, to the Privy Council if need be – and the story is confirmed by a servant of Sir Christopher Hatton (241).

Fortunately for Drake, John’s unhappiness draws the attention of certain Spanish agents. The Spanish ambassador has already shown a peculiar interest in the fate of Thomas Doughtie; this interest is more likely to have to do with John’s reaction and potential to be recruited than with the far-flung speculation by some Drake partisans that Thomas Doughtie was an agent in the employ of Spain (Froud 85). One Patrick Mason, arrested for his involvement with Spanish conspiracies, under torture confessed that John Doughtie had been approached with an offer to assassinate Drake. According to Mason, Doughtie agreed, saying, “if he could get a fit company unto his content and upon some assurance for the payment of the said sum of money, he would take upon him to perform the same, under colour of his own quarrel,” (State Papers, Dom., Elizabeth, vol. cliii. No. 49 qtd. in Stephen 1339). However, there is no real evidence that Doughtie accepted the offer – he certainly did not act upon it – but upon this evidence he is jailed a second time (Kelsey 232). Cummins comments that “Drake and powerful friends pursued young Doughty with any means possible,” and implies that Mason’s account was compelled, and that the entire affair may be spurious (Francis Drake 126).

As of late 1583, John Doughtie had been imprisoned at Marshalsea for 16 months “to his utter undoing” without being brought to trial. He petitions under the 29th chapter of Magna Carta that he must be tried or released – the answer comes back that he is not to be released. There is no record of either John Doughtie’s release or trial. Through a blatant miscarriage of justice, he is effectively silenced. Corbett speculates that this is because Lord Burghley does not want his involvement with the affair made public (342); one could just as well speculate that it is the result of the continuing enmity of Leicester. There is a simpler solution: the queen does not wish her hero to face the bad publicity of such a trial, for even if John were to be found guilty of foreign collusion, Drake’s reputation would be brought into question. John Doughtie’s fate is lost to history. It may be worthy of note that the parish records of St Clement Dane Church, Westminster, indicate a marriage between a John Doughtie (although certainly there was more than one John Doughtie) and Ann Thomsonn on 4th February 1581/2. Apocryphally, there are Doughty families in the United States who claim to trace their descent from John. There is one tantalizing clue found in a note among the papers of the Cecil family: included on a list of English persons in Spain in August of 1595, apparently people to be watched most carefully, is “One Doughtie—the worst of all of his tongue against this state” (Calendar 357). It certainly sounds like a description of John, and that he would eventually flee to Spain, either because he was indeed in the employ of the Spanish government, or because his experience at the hands of British law was so dismal - causing his treason to become a self-fulfilling prophecy - is quite believable.

And so, the investigation of the justice of Doughtie’s treatment ends in yet another injustice. There is no record of any further investigation during Drake’s lifetime. “There was a general disinclination to speak openly about the matter, as if to do so might be dangerous,” (Gibbs 36); “Drake simply got away with it,” (Sugden 152). The motivation is all too clear – a 4700% return on the investors’ stakes. Drake would have owed Doughtie some £23,500 had he returned from the voyage alive, motivation enough for murder, had Drake the faintest idea of how successful his venture was to be. If Doughtie, while on the Mary, had indeed been so tactless and imprudent to say, as Ned Bright alleged, that the “woll Counsayle wold be corrupted with money. Yea, the queens maiestie her self…” (Documents 172), he was dead right.

Despite his fame and wealth, Drake is never entirely accepted amongst the class to which he aspires. To many, he will never be more than a pirate, and to some, a murderer. Besides his cold reception from Burghley, he is publicly snubbed by Lord Sussex and the Earl of Arundel (Kelsey 217). Furthermore, even Hatton’s patronage cannot smooth things over with Drake at the Inner Temple, to which he was admitted on 28 January 1582/3. According to An Inner Temple Miscellany, Drake faces enough scorn from the Inn’s butlers that the benchers call these servants to discipline. Is it any wonder that Drake, although never actually a member, felt more at home in the Middle Temple, to which he bequeathed the Golden Hinde’s fore hatch for a tabletop?

Next page - Thomas Doughtie: the Motion Picture - Fictive Histories and Imperialist Fictions

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