American History Told by Contemporaries

Author: Richard Hakluyt  | Date: 1589

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U.S. History

The First English Slave Trader (1530)


OLDE M. William Haukins of Plimmouth, a man for his wisedome, valure [valor], experience, and skill in sea causes much esteemed, and beloued of king Henry the 8, and being one of the principall Sea Captaines in the West partes of England in his time, not contented with the short voyages commonly then made onely to the knowen coastes of Europe, armed out a tall and goodly ship of his owne of the burthen of 250 tunnes called the Pole of Plimmouth, wherewith he made three long and famous voyages vnto the coast of Brasill, a thing in those dayes very rare, especially to our Nation. In the course of which voyages he touched at the Riuer of Sestos vpon the coast of Guinea, where hee traffiqued with the Negroes, and tooke of them Olephants teeth, and other commodities which that place yeeldeth: and so arriuing on the coast of Brasil, vsed there such discretion, and behaued himselfe so wisely with those sauage people, that he grew into great familiaritie and friendship with them. Insomuch that in his 2, [second] voyage, one of the sauage kings of the Countrey of Brasill, was contented to take shipe with him, and to bee transported hither into England: whereunto M. Haukins agreed, leauing behinde in the Countrey as a pledge for his safetie and returne againe, one Martin Cockeram of Plimmouth. This Brasilian king being arriued, was brought vp to London, and presented to King Henry the 8, lying as then at Whitehall: at the sight of whome, the King and all the Nobilitie did not a litle marueile [marvel], and not without cause: for in his cheekes were holes made according to their sauage maner, and therein small bones were planted, standing an inche out from the said holes, which in his owne Countrey was reputed for a great brauerie. He had also another hole in his nether lippe, wherein was set a precious stone about the bignesse of a pease: All his apparell, behauior, and gesture, were very strange to the beholders.

Hauing remained here the space almost of a whole yere, and the king with his sight fully satisfied, M. Hawkins according to his promise and appointment, purposed to conuey him againe into his Countrey: but it fell out in the way, that by change of ayre and alteration of diet, the saide Sauage king died at Sea, which was feared woulde turne to the losse of the life of Martin Cockeram his pledge. Neuerthelesse, the Sauages being fully perswaded of the honest dealing of our men with their Prince, restored againe the saide pledge, without any harme to him, or any man of the companie: which pledge of theirs they brought home againe into England, with their shippe fraighted, and furnished with the commodities of the Countrey. Which Martine Cockeram, by the witnesse of sir John Hawkins, being an officer in the towne of Plimmouth, was liuing within these fewe yeeres.

Richard Hakluyt, The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation (London, 1589), pp. 520–521.


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Chicago: Richard Hakluyt, "The First English Slave Trader (1530)," American History Told by Contemporaries in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1897), 73–74. Original Sources, accessed April 13, 2024,

MLA: Hakluyt, Richard. "The First English Slave Trader (1530)." American History Told by Contemporaries, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 1, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1897, pp. 73–74. Original Sources. 13 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Hakluyt, R, 'The First English Slave Trader (1530)' in American History Told by Contemporaries. cited in 1897, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.73–74. Original Sources, retrieved 13 April 2024, from