Inspiring Examples of Heroism.
We are not among those who scoff at the idea of hereditary valor and virtue.
On the contrary, we hold that there is as much in the blood of men as of horses, and that we may judge somewhat of the future of a generation from the antecedents and the achievements of its ancestors.
Into the learned ethnological discussions of some philosophers it is not necessary to enter, but of this we are quite sure, that, whether we call them Celts or Anglo-Saxons, the people from whom our countrymen have descended have set them an example in defence of their hearths, altars, rights, and independence, which were never expressed in Greek
or Latin story.
It is well for the descendants of a mighty race, when placed in circumstances of great trial and peril, to look back at the conduct of their ancestors when similarly situated, and from that retrospect derive instruction, example, and encouragement.
We propose a brief glance at only one of the many illustrations which the Past
affords of the temper and prowess of our ancestors when their liberties were seriously menaced — the familiar instance of the Spanish Armada
— and are content to leave it to the deeds of the South
to prove whether they are descended from that a alwart race, or are a mongrel litter of puppies, who know no more than dogs do of their grandfathers, and deserve to be caught by the dogcatchers, and only rescued from death by a dog-collar, in the shapes of an oath of allegiance to the Yankees
Before the age of Elizabeth, England
had little more foothold upon the unstable deep than the Southern Confederacy at this hour, although the roots of her present naval supremacy may be traced far back into Danish
, and even Saxon
It was the general opinion, up to the days of Drake
, that the English
navy would never be able to cope with the great armaments of Spain
, or even Portugal
, upon the ocean!
Such was the status of England
among naval powers when Drake
, like Semmes
and Maflit began to prove that the blood of the old Vikings was still alive in the exploits of their descendants.
It was in the year 1587, when the magnitude and object of the Armada
became known, that Drake
, with only thirty ships, dashed into Cadiz
, where a fleet was waiting to join the Armada
, and destroyed every vessel--one hundred in all!
The main body of the Armada
was in the Tagus
, and Drake
, with his thirty ships, challenged their commander to come out and meet him, but he prudently declined; whereupon Drake
returned home, contented with having, as he styles it, "singed the King
's beard." It is not, however, the conduct of this or that man, but of the whole English Government and people, that challenge the admiration and imitation of posterity.
The preparations of the Spaniards were, for that day, of the most gigantic character.
The Armada consisted of over 200 ships, some 25,000 soldiers, 3,450 sailors, 2,088 slaves, 2,630 pieces of ordnance, and immense naval and military stores.
Besides these, the Prince
of Porma had 30,000 picked troops ready to embark in Flanders
, whilst Guise promised to march 12,000 men into Normandy
, to be transported by the Armada
To meet the vast naval odds, there were in the English
navy only thirty-four ships, carrying 6,225 men, besides 157 merchant ships, not one of which reached two hundred tons, and only sixteen, one hundred.
It had been a vexed question with Elizabeth
's advisers whether the main defence should be by land or sea.--But though they concluded to trust mainly to the ships, the land rose up in complete defence.
Never was there more boundless enthusiasm than that plusky English nation displayed in the presence of the overhanging danger.
The peasant arrayed himself beside the peer, and not only all London
, but 120,000 men besides, armed for the war, and was so completely organized that a force of 20,000 could be concentrated in forty-eight hours upon any threatened part of the coast.
, in a letter to the Lord Lieutenant
, said of England
what is just as true of the South
. "Every man's particular state in the highest degree will be touched (by the invasion) in respect of country, liberty, wives, children, lands, lives, and religion.
in a word, Englishmen, quit you like men and fight.
" So joyfully did England
respond to her Queen
that the soldiers are said to have marched to their position dancing and leaping.
herself appeared among the soldiers, armed in steel, and, mounted on a noble war horse, she made them a speech which raised their enthusiasm to fever heat.-- "I know that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a King, aye, and of a King of England
too."--And then she sounds a trumpet blast of stirring defiance, which fairly electrified the whole nation.
Even one of the forms of prayer offered up in prospect of the great peril might be adopted, without modification, in our own churches. "O Lord
give good and prosperous success to all those who fight Thy battle against the enemies of Thy Gospel.
Show some token continually for our good, that they who hate us may see it and be confounded; and that we, Thy little and despised flock, may say, with good King David, 'Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord Jehovah
, and blessed is the folk whom He hath chosen to be His inheritance.' These and all graces necessary for us grant, O Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ
's sake, our only Mediator and Redeemer."
We all know what became of the Armada
, how Providence
, through waves and tempests, combined with the energies of Hankins
, wrought its destruction.
Let us learn faith and hope from that example and be sure that, if we are only true to ourselves, the birthright of freedom which we inherited from the fast anchored tale will never be taken from us.