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This is page 9 of a 13 page article. Go to previous page. Go to Introduction.

II. Thomas Doughtie: the Martyr – The Ugly Trial and Beautiful Death of Thomas Doughtie (con't) Edit

There are, of course, other versions of the story, even contemporary ones. Some of these accounts try to say as little as possible about the incident: Cliffe simply reports, “The last of June M. Thomas Doughty was brought to his answere, was accused, and convicted of certaine articles, and by M. Drake condemned. He was beheaded the 2 of July, 1578, whose body was buried in the said Island,” (Cliffe 279). Hakluyt's account goes into slightly more detail:

In this port our General began to enquire diligently of the actions of Master Thomas Doughty, and found them not to be such as he looked for, but tending rather of contention or mutiny, or some other disorder, whereby, without redress, the success of the voyage might greatly have been hazarded. Whereupon the company was called together and made acquainted with the particulars of the cause, which were found, partly by Master Doughty's own confession, and partly by the evidence of the fact, to be true. Which when our General saw, although his private affection to Master Doughty, as he then in the presence of us all sacredly protested, was great, yet the care he had of the state of the voyage, of the expectation of her Majesty, and of the honour of his country did more touch him, as indeed it ought, than the private respect of one man. So that the cause being throughly heard, and all things done in good order as near as might be to the course of our laws in England, it was concluded that Master Doughty should receive punishment according to the quality of the offence.

Nothing can really be derived from this sketchy account about the real guilt of Thomas Doughtie, but a point of interest is that it reports Drake’s protestation of affection to Doughty, a fact neither reported by Cooke nor Fletcher, but one that will be of enormous import in The World Encompassed.

This account first appeared as an insert to Hakluyt’s Voyages with no identification of the source. Hakluyt’s original account had been suppressed – the reason is an open question. Quinn argues that this was not due to any lingering secrecy concerning the route of the voyage, but due to Drake’s disfavor with the Queen at the time the Voyages was published (35-36). There has been considerable debate about whether the additional pages were included when the book was first printed or inserted at a later time. Kelsey makes a persuasive argument that Hakluyt’s version of the circumnavigation was not available until 1595 (178), which would put it after the publication of Stowe. The Hakluyt story is often attributed to Francis Pretty – continues to be disseminated widely (even in textbooks) with this attribution, even though its authorship was challenged in the Victorian Era. Although Francis Pretty did compose a narrative of circumnavigation, he was actually on Cavendish’s expedition of 1588. Hakluyt also published this account, and it would appear that accidentally or on purpose, the two stories became conflated. The continued misattribution of the story is of especial concern when considering the Doughtie affair, as this is the only first person account which supports Drake’s actions. Obviously, the story gains in credibility if it can be attributed to an independent third party witness.

It seems that Hakluyt compiled his version from a number of the sources already mentioned – including Fletcher and Cooke (Kelsey 177). For example, the rather unique and detailed description of the coconut is plagiarized directly from Cooke (compare Cooke 190 to Haykluyt 230). However, the above version of the Doughtie story does not appear in any other known account, begging the question of where Hakluyt got the information. The account is accurate enough in the facts to argue that he must have had some reliable source – unlike Camden, whose belief that John Doughtie was executed and that the jury was composed of 12, not 40, men seems to indicate that he relied on rumors and secondhand reports. Hakluyt’s narrative also covers the return home to England, which is in neither Cooke’s, Cliff’s nor Fletcher’s manuscripts. There are details included which are distinctly unfavorable to Drake. It is possible that the story comes from some unknown source entirely lost to us. A more likely possibility is that the later part of the story is derived from the lost second half of Fletcher’s journal. Supporting this hypothesis, the embarrassing incident of Fletcher’s excommunication is not included in Hakluyt’s narrative (it comes to us from a document which lists a number of rather short and disjointed memoranda on the journey - Harl. mss. 280, fol. 81). If Fletcher’s missing journal is the source of the later material, then we are still left with the question of where Haykluyt got his version of the Doughtie story.

Another possibility is that the Doughtie story came directly from Drake. Hakluyt was Walsingham’s secretary, and would likely have had access to his subject. He may have even been given access to the lost, confiscated Drake logbook of the expedition. The content of the text hints at these possibilities, for example, the rationale “…yet the care he had of the state of the voyage, of the expectation of her Majesty, and of the honour of his country did more touch him, as indeed it ought, than the private respect of one man,” is exactly the same one Drake used when he wined and dined the captive hidalgo, de Zarate: "All this he told me, speaking much good about the dead man, but adding that he had not been able to act otherwise, because this was what the Queen’s service demanded." The Haykluyt account resembles no other version of the Doughtie affair more than Drake's own retrospective apologia. Furthermore, the basic theme – duty exceeding friendship in importance – is the seed from which the fictive history in The World Encompassed will grow. No matter which possibility is true, Hakluyt’s account is clearly a compilation of sources rather than the first person narrative of “Francis Pretty,” which means that the only contemporary version of the Doughtie execution which is entirely favorable to Drake is called into question.

The best analysis of the primary source documents concerning the trial is found in David Hannay’s 1898 article, “The Case of Mr. Doughty.” To sum, there are four voices in favor of Doughtie – Cooke, Fletcher, Wynter and John Doughtie (as expressed through his lawsuit and subsequent arrest.) Of these, two – Cooke and Fletcher – give rich amounts of detail. There is only one – “Pretty” as quoted above – that seems in favor of Drake, but does not go into enough detail to allow the reader to form any opinions about the merit of the case. Then there are two – Cliffe and de Silva – who mention the trial and execution, but refrain from any comment on the ethics of the proceedings. Hannay analyzes each in depth, asserting that Wynter might have had an ulterior motive (he was trying to defend himself against the charge that he abandoned Drake), but Cooke and Fletcher had no real reasons to lie. He finds the evidence overwhelmingly in favor of Doughtie. Sadly, this clear-sightedness did Doughtie little good when he was condemned.

And was there ever a mutiny brewing in the fleet? The first hint of trouble is found in Doughtie’s original address as he assumes command of the Pelican, “There have been great travails, fallings out and quarrels among you, and that every one of you have been uncertain whom to obey,” (qtd. in Corbett 234-235). A perceptive reader will note two ironies 1) Doughtie is trying to quell a potential mutiny, not start one and 2) the trouble on the Pelican is already present – had been fomenting under Drake’s leadership. There is no evidence of any suspicious activity on any of the ships after that, save one – the Elizabeth, a ship which Doughtie never commands and, in fact, is not a passenger upon until the near the end of his life, when he is held a prisoner, forbidden to read or speak to the men. It is on the Elizabeth that he is offered shelter after his trial; it is on the Elizabeth that someone kindly offers him a cabin during his imprisonment – as opposed to his abominable treatment on the Swan, where he may have been an officer. It is the Elizabeth that harbors the majority of the dissenters, such as Cooke and Vlysses, and it is on the Elizabeth that Drake threatens to hang half the crew. Hannay theorizes that Drake killed Doughtie to make an example of him, but chose him in particular precisely because he was not a ringleader of the men and did not have influential friends at home (exactly the opposite of the story usually told of him). While this vision of a calculating, manipulative and Machiavellian Drake is hard to swallow, consider that there was a man so well-connected that Drake might have thought him untouchable, a man who happened to be captain of the ship where so many of the troubles originated – John Wynter. And if Drake’s aim in executing Doughtie was to scare Wynter, judging from Wynter’s later depositions, he succeeded masterfully. The ploy, however, backfired, for Wynter does exactly the thing of which Doughtie has been accused in so many histories (and did not do!): turns tail and runs for England.

Various reasons for these discontented stirrings have been proposed. The one most often given is tension between the gentlemen and the mariners provoked by the refusal of the gentlemen to work. A number of authors lay this “problem” squarely at Doughtie’s feet; often it comes to a head upon the Swan (Sugden 105; Ronald 217; Thomson 108). However, considering Doughtie’s abrupt manner of exile to the flyboat, did many of the gentlemen go with him? One always gets the impression of swarms of gentlemen, getting in the way, complaining, taunting the mariners and plotting nefariously against Drake. In fact, the estimate of the number of “gentleman adventurers” ranges from 10-12, including the two Doughties and the chaplain! And a careful examination of the source documents shows that two of these gentlemen – John Chester, Captain of the Swan and son of the Lord Mayor of London (Coote 93-94), and Gregory Cary, a relative of the Queen’s cousin Lord Hunsdon (Wilson 42), were decidedly ill-disposed towards Doughtie. Doughtie’s staunchest supporters on the voyage, other than his brother and Vicarye, seem to have been from the ranks of the men (Gibbs 39) – Thomas Cuttill, Hugh Smythe and probably John Cooke (it has been alleged that Cooke had legal training, but the rough vivacity of his prose would seem to argue against an excess of education.) If there was discontent amongst the gentlemen, it is hardly likely that Doughtie was at the center of it.

But were the gentlemen really that troublesome? In so many Drake biographies the haughty conduct of the gentlemen is described in such detail (see especially Sanderlin 65 which slips from quoting source documents into a totally fictive account), it comes as a shock to realize that the evidence of this in source documents is almost non-existent. There is only Drake’s famous speech after Doughtie’s execution, the famous one in which he says that he wants the gentlemen to "haul and draw with the mariners.” Even Drake’s statement is ambiguous: its context is a discussion of the "controversies" between the sailors and gentlemen which might well be about other things - such as Doughtie's execution. The standard reason assumed for the conflict is that the gentlemen would not "haul and draw." However, it could be read that they would not do so with the mariners - that is, not work alongside them because the two sides hated each other so bitterly. Examining Drake’s words (as reported by Cooke, but oft quoted as though they were the gospel of naval history):

I would know hym that would refuse to set his hand to a roape, but I know there is not any suche heare; and as gentlemen are verye necessarye for governments sake in the voyadge, so have I shipte them for that, and to some farthar intent, and yet thwghe I knowe saylars to be the most envyous people of the worlde, and so vnruly without government, yet may I not be without them. (Cooke 213)

Interestingly, Drake seems to come down more strongly against the mariners than the gentlemen, which may indicate an attempt to be conciliatory towards his social superiors. It may also reflect a surprising truth: while there may be a lack of evidence of bad faith on the part of the gentlemen, there is a lot of evidence that the mariners did everything in their power to make these men miserable. Resentment over the privileged status of the gentlemen at home seems to have erupted into a conscious program of harassment most evident on the Swan, centered on the hapless Doughtie but also encompassing Captain Chester (no friend of Doughtie’s) and “some other gentlemen.” The same type of thing seemed to be happening on the Mary, where Cooke was located: “a sorte of badd and envious people, as saylers and such lyke” in Drake’s entourage encouraged the mistreatment of these men, no doubt feeding into Drake’s own insecurities about his humble origins.

Other possibilities for the source of trouble have been raised. John Wynter seems to have protested that what was a voyage of trade and discovery was circumvented into a pirate raid. His statement, however, was made when he testified during the Portuguese claim for restitution concerning the capture of the Santa Maria (Mary), and he might have been stretching the truth to excuse his own behavior. From this, a number of historians have drawn the conclusion that there was a “peace party” in the fleet with Doughtie and Wynter at the head (for example, Wilson 57-58; Wagner 23-24). While John Cooke seems to have objected to “a companye of desperate banckwrouptes that could not lvye in theyr contrye without the spoyle of that as others had gotten by the swete of theyr browes,” (207) he may be, as Corbett notes, objecting to piracy on principle (Tudor Navy, 259, note), or in the context, he may simply be disgusted with the men who would put their purses above Doughtie’s life. Robinson raises another very interesting point – although Drake was to claim that the Queen wished him to take her revenge upon the King of Spain for diverse injuries, the first ships they attacked were Portuguese (282). Yet although there may have been an anti-piracy sentiment among the men, especially those who believed that they were going to Alexandria, Andrews has argued persuasively that in Doughtie’s case, at least, this could not have been true (“Aims” 725-26; Drake’s Voyages 63-64). It seems clear from his actions that he knew the intent of the mission and, initially, at least, supported Drake.

The claim has also been made that Doughtie wished to take the fleet into northern waters for the purpose of piracy, mostly based upon the captured hidalgo de Zarate’s secondhand report of Drake’s own words. Temple claims that Doughtie opposed the Pacific journey from the start (xxvi). But at Doughtie’s trial, no accusation of either desertion or of opposing Drake’s plans is mentioned. It seems likely, given that Doughtie’s most trivial remarks were interpreted in the blackest possible light, if he had suggested something of such import, it most certainly would have been brought up on that occasion.

Most likely the discontent arose from a combination of tension between the mariners and the gentlemen, Drake’s initial dishonesty over the destination of the voyage, hardships such as bad weather and scurvy, and the continuing lack of substantial profit which continued from the Atlantic crossing through the Straits of Magellan well into 1579. It seems unlikely that something so organized as a mutiny was planned, and certainly not under the direction of Doughtie, who could not marshal enough support to keep his neck from the axe. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that no fellow collaborators are ever indicted, Thomas Doughtie is found guilty of mutiny, the perpetrator of an oxymoronic conspiracy of one, and condemned to die.

Thus ends the part of Francis Drake’s story concerning the mutiny of Thomas Doughtie. And, in one of the most stunningly elegant rhetorical moves of all time, thus begins the story of Thomas Doughtie, martyr. With one day left to live, Doughtie dazzles all present with his courtesy, piety and wit. It has been said that in death, Doughtie showed a poise that he never proved capable of during his life: “Nothing in Doughty’s life became him like the leaving of it,” (Coote133); “Whatever was good in Doughty assumed command of him,” (Benson 134); “The man met his end with dignity and courage,” (Sugden 111) and that old chestnut, “Doughty met his maker with great courage befitting an Elizabethan gentleman,” (Ronald 220). Apparently, if our ancestors were guilty of quaint barbarity in their legal system, nevertheless they possessed courage and dignity in great dollops. All of this is an excuse to avoid the real issue: people, then or now, do not live their lives in disconnected pieces. Whatever quality Doughtie possessed on his last day, it was likely to be present all his days. The only difference on that first day of July was that Doughtie finally had the opportunity to live according to his own script.

Fletcher, as seen, stressed Doughtie’s spiritual leanings in his description, and at the idea of death the language soars into flights of mysticism: “…long before his death he seemed to be mortified and to be ravished with the desire of God’s kingdom; ye to be dissolved and to be with Christ, in whose death so many virtues were cutt off, as dropps of blood were shed,” (Drake 63 Fletcher note). Of course this area would be of particular concern to the chaplain, and, as we have seen, Fletcher has a tendency towards melodrama. The preacher also records Doughtie’s not insignificant statement: “…howsoever it was wherewith they charged him upon their oaths I know not, but he utterly denied it upon his salvation at the houre of communicating the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, and at the houre and moment of his death, affirming that he was innocent of such things whereof he was accused, judged and suffered death for,” (Drake 62-63 Fletcher note).

John Cooke tells much the same story, albeit in rather less florid words. He has previously shown little interest in religion and does not tend to use religious language until the death of Doughtie. He reports that Doughtie spent a little time to set his affairs in order, mainly distributing the property he had with him (which was probably the substance of his investment in the voyage). This must also have included writing the codicil to his will, canceling his burial arrangements in England and redistributing the money he had allocated for such in pensions to those of his soldiers who remained upon the voyage – and a substantial bequest to Vicarye, who by this time he must have perceived as his closest friend. Cooke tells us that the rest of Doughtie’s remaining day and a half was spent in prayer until Drake commanded that he prepare to die.

“Then Mastar Dowghtye, with a more cherefoll countenance then evar he had in all his lyfe to the showe, as one that dyd altogether contempne lyffe, prayed hym that ere he dyed he might receive the sacrament,” (Cooke 208). Not to be upstaged, Drake offers to take it with him. Doughtie receives this rather tactless offer not only with grace, but enthusiasm. But before they do so, Drake asks Doughtie how he would die. Doughtie chooses the axe, probably with some relief that he is not to suffer the disgrace of being hanged. Perhaps at this point, Drake realizes that he is walking the edge of propriety with his treatment of Doughtie, and that it is important to be perceived as behaving magnanimously. He then offers to shoot Doughtie himself so that the condemned might die “of the hands of a gentleman.” Doughtie’s response to this is not recorded, but he obviously declined, and with no recorded loss of good humor for the content of this morbid conversation – indeed, perhaps some amusement at Drake’s pretensions of class.

During the communion, Cooke continues to be astonished at Doughtie’s pious resolve: “...he sure shewed hym selfe to have all his affiance and onely trust in God, he shewed hym selfe so valiant in this extremities as the worlde myght wonder at, he semed to have conquered deathe it selfe, and it was not sene that of all this daye before his deathe that evar he altered one jot his countenaunce, but kept it as stayed and fyrme as yf he had had some message to delyvar to some noble man,” (Cooke 208).

The condemned man must have a last meal, but Drake, now caught in the theatre of the whole affair, decides to throw a banquet which he shares with the condemned. The scene of piety and chivalry that follows is of such haunting beauty that Robert Southey in his Life of Drake accuses Sir Francis the Younger of making the whole thing up. Corbett points out that Southey did not know of the manuscript of Cooke’s account, which confirms the details in a light much less friendly to Drake than the story in The World Encompassed (260). Of note is that the agreement between the two stories would indicate that the second Sir Francis had indeed read Cooke’s manuscript. Following the dinner, an intriguing incident takes place. Doughtie asks to speak alone to Drake, which Cooke records as taking “halfe a quarter of an howre.” No one knows what passed between the two men, adding to the mystery of the surrealistic scene: “The inference is that Doughty made some kind of confession and the two were reconciled,” Roche speculates (80.)

Ready to die, Doughtie kneels in prayer, asking God to protect the queen and to assure the safety and profit of the voyage. He then addresses his farewell wishes to his friends in England, most especially to be remembered to Sir William Wynter. At this point in the drama, one can almost feel John Wynter cringe. Then Doughtie turns to Drake and jokes, “Nowe, truly, I may say, as dyd ser Thomas More, that he that cuts of my heade shall have little honestie, my necke is so shorte,” (Cooke 209). Corbett points out that this detail in particular indicates Cooke’s version is probably an honest attempt to remember what exactly happened and not a fabrication devised solely to slander Drake – or else why misquote More when the actual quote would have been readily available (260)?

But why did Doughtie quote More in the first place? The jocularity fits his mood (although he is about to broach a most serious subject, as will be seen). Perhaps he also wanted to draw a parallel between his situation and More's as innocent men condemned out of malice and political expediency. Perhaps in his own mind, he sees himself martyred, like More – he has assuredly conducted himself in such fashion. The parallel is strained, certainly, and it is interesting that More is a Catholic. It has been speculated that Doughtie had Catholic sympathies, based on the tenuous evidence that distant, surviving branches of Doughties had Catholics among them. The connection is sometimes even stretched to include the accusation that Doughtie was working for the Spaniards (Roche 64), but even Corbett rejects this, pointing out that the Spanish ambassador Mendoza had no idea where Drake was going when the fleet left port in 1577 (226). The idea of Doughtie as a traitor to his country seems to have originated with Froude and was widely disseminated by Callender. It has no basis in fact. “So that charge can be cut clean out of the history books; it should never have found its way into print,” laments Robinson (274); of course, much the same could be said of various other reams of distortions and out-and-out fabrications concerning the Doughtie affair.

Reading over Doughtie’s will, it is clear that the Catholic theory is completely unfounded. While the Anglican formulae concerning death and the hereafter contained therein are commonplace, Doughtie’s will stands out in the sheer volume of religious platitudes produced before he gets down to business. No wonder Fletcher liked him – they shared a taste for spiritual effusiveness. In any case, it is untenable to believe that Doughtie was Catholic in any regard, but the content of the will does reinforce the sincerity of the drama at San Julian. Doughtie was indeed a man who took his religion seriously. In all likelihood, he did have some sort of epiphany the night before his death; his good cheer is not just a façade to upstage Drake, nor is it merely an example, as is oft repeated, of an Elizabethan gentleman demonstrating that he could lose with grace.

Doughtie next addresses the company, begging their forgiveness if any have suffered on his account, in particular Hughe Smythe and Thomas Cuttill. Smythe then begs Doughtie to assure Drake that he was not part of a conspiracy against the captain general. Again, Doughtie protests his innocence. There was no conspiracy; no one plotted with him against Drake, and he, himself, never thought ill of his tormentor. Perhaps shamed into compliance, Drake promises Smythe that for Doughtie’s sake, he will not be harmed although Drake had planned to cut his ears off. Drake does seem to keep this promise to Smythe; it will be seen how far he forgives the other Doughtie sympathizers.

The end having arrived, Doughtie embraces Drake, and, on July 2nd, 1578, in the beautiful words of The World Encompassed, "he came forthe and kneeled downe, preparing at once his necke for the axe, and his spirit for heauen," (67). The Portuguese navigator Nuno da Silva is much less prosaic; in his journal entry for the day he writes simply: "They cut off his head." Drake displays the gruesome object to the company with the famous line, “Loo, this is the end of traytors.” Cooke’s disgust at Drake’s theatrical disrespect of the dead man is manifest (210). According to Fletcher, Doughtie is buried with two men who had died as a result of an attack by Patagonians several days earlier. Fletcher claims to have set up a stone with the names and dates engraved himself; according to The World Encompassed it is the remains of an old grinding stone the men had found upon the island. Drake names the place of Doughtie’s burial, “the Isle of True Justice,” but Fletcher reports that among the men, in respect of what passed with both Magellan and with Drake, the place is called “the Isle of Blood.”

The World Encompassed is effusive on the subject of Doughtie’s death, assuring that he has redeemed himself by the “worthie manner of his death (being much more honorable by it, then blameable for any other of his actions)” (67) – certainly a strange sentiment considering this text’s earlier claim that Doughtie intended to murder Drake! It goes on to say that all stain on his character is nullified by his beautiful death, and that he “left vnto our fleete a lamentable example of a goodly gentleman, who in seeking advancement vnfit for him, cast away himselfe; and vnto posteritie a monument of, I know not what…” (67). The younger Francis Drake wants to draw some great moral lesson from the incident, but in the end, he must admit his confusion as to the significance of the events. Predictably, the conclusion Cooke draws is much more definite: Drake “mordered hym that yf he had well loked into himself had bene a more sure and stedfast frend vnto hym than evar was Pythias to his frind Damon,” (202).

Next page - Thomas Doughtie: the Martyr - Repercussions at Sea and at Home

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