Per Scriptum E. Wesley – Mackinac Center Intern
Spain vs. England on the advent of the 17th century was the personification of contradictory, epic struggle. Spain was about to discover, colonize, and pillage to ruin the richest goldmine on earth at that time; condemning most of all South American native inhabitants to sudden death, unspeakable torture, or lifelong serfdom. England, was about to land boatloads of hungry separatist Pilgrims and Puritans to a cold, threatening shore, and found a land of freedom that would be a “city on a hill.” Spain would sink its riches in the sea of slavery, while England would blow its spark of poverty into a flame of liberty. England almost perished in what became the most famous sea conflict in human history.
Philip II of Spain was most displeased at the execution of Catholic English monarch Mary Queen of Scotts in 1587, and immediately saw the world as existing on two planes: Protestantism or Catholicism. After crushing a Protestant revolt in the Netherlands, Philip’s great desire was to dispel the new Protestant regime in England. This “regime” was comprised of the tolerant Elisabeth I and many Anglican church leaders, as the Protestant Reformation in England grew into full bud. Elizabeth, fearing invasion, gave aid to the Dutch revolt in an attempt to keep the war away from English soil. Philip rightly took this as a declaration of war, and began building his armada to support an invasion force that would take out prominent Protestant leaders in the English Church and government. The armada of Spain under the command of Don Alonso Perez de Guzman was equipped with 132 ships, 21,621 soldiers, and 8,066 sailors. Lord High Admiral Howard of Effingham had an English force of over 100 ships and only about 16,000 or 17,000 men (most of whom were sailors). There would be no question of who would win if the Spanish were allowed to board the English ships or step foot on English soil.
The Spanish surprised the English at Plymouth, but the English were successful in keeping the Spanish from boarding. More maneuverable than the slower Spanish vessels, the English ships could dance around the Spanish like flies, but could not fully engage. Finally, low on ammunition, the English resorted to running a few fireships loaded with explosives into some of the Spanish ships at night in hopes that the Spanish would panic and cut their anchors. Sure enough, the Spanish panicked and put out to sea with the English in pursuit. Discouraged, the Spanish decided to return to Spain, refit, and return with fullest vigor. They planned to go around Scotland and return south, but then something unexpected happened that left the Spanish and English both in awe. The winds picked up, and providential storm after storm pelted the floundering Spanish to utter ruin. Soon after, coins were fashioned in England reading “God’s wind blew, and the armada was sunk.” Now that Pharaoh’s armies were drowned and the sea parted, English protestants crossed the Atlantic unhindered by the Spanish and inherited their new promised land.
Image from Wikipedia
Founders by Marshall Foster