[Footnote 22: Hakluyt, IV. 232. Harris, I. p. 14. Oxford Coll. II. sect. xvi. Callender’s Voy. I. 288. The original account of this voyage was published at London, in 4to, in 1600, and reprinted in 1618.—E.]
This celebrated naval hero received the Christian name of Francis from his godfather the earl of Bedford, but does not appear to have derived any great patronage from that nobleman. He was sent young to sea, as an apprentice to the master of a small bark, who traded with France and Zealand; and his master, a bachelor, taking a great affection for him, left him his bark at his death. At eighteen years of age, he was purser of a ship on a voyage to the Bay of Biscay, and at twenty made a voyage to the coast of Guinea. In all these voyages he distinguished himself by extraordinary courage, and by a sagacity beyond his years. In 1565, his laudable desire of glory induced him to venture his all in a voyage to the West Indies, which had no success. In 1567, he served under his kinsman Sir John Hawkins in the bay of Mexico, but was again unfortunate, returning from the voyage rich in character and fame, but with almost ruined circumstances. These disappointments served only to increase his desire of bettering his fortunes at the expence of the grand enemy of his country, against whom he made two other voyages into these parts; the first in 1570 with two ships, the Dragon and Swan and the second in 1571, in the Swan alone, chiefly for information, that he might qualify himself for undertaking some enterprize of greater importance; which he at length carried into execution with great courage and perseverance.
His character for bravery and seamanship being now established, he soon found a sufficient number of persons willing to adventure a part of their fortunes in a privateering voyage which he proposed. He accordingly sailed from Plymouth on the 24th May, 1572, in the Pasco, a ship only of seventy tons, having for his consort the Swan of 250 tons, commanded by his brother John Drake, with seventy-three men and boys, and provisions for a year. Such were the mighty preparations he had made for attacking the power of Spain in the West Indies, in which he considered himself justified, in order to make reprisals for the losses he had formerly sustained from the Spaniards. In this voyage he surprised and plundered the famous town of Nombre de Dios; and soon afterwards had a distant view of the South Sea from the top of a high tree, which inflamed him with the desire of conducting an English ship thither, which attempt he had perhaps never thought of but for that circumstance.