Hakluyt -- Prophet of Britain’s Westward Expansion

Over four centuries ago, in 1582, Richard Hakluyt’s first book: Diverse Voyages Touching the Discovery of America, was published. Like his greater work: The Principal Navigation, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nations, published in 1589, the book had a practical object -- to encourage his fellow countrymen to colonize, and to ensure that North America was planted by Englishmen. Richard Hakluyt, known to historians as the “Apostle of Empire,” was a man with a vision -- a vision which was to be realized fully in succeeding centuries in the expansion of British People from their small island Kingdom to develop a “company of nations” blossoming into the greatest Empire the world has known.

Concerning Hakluyt’s first book, historian Lacey Baldwin Smith, Professor of English History at Northwestern University, Illinois, writes (with greater significance than he probably realizes) in his magazine series The British Empire: “First, with a prophetic enthusiasm for the future direction of imperial expansion he propagandized for colonization in North America.” We, of course, recall that, when YEHOVAH God blessed the descendants of Israel, He promised: “Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west...”

In 935 B.C., ten of the tribes of Israel rebelled against the Throne of David over taxation and began the northern Kingdom of Israel, separated from their God-given Throne and Temple. This is the first commencement date of the Seven Times of Chastisement, of 2,520 years, decreed by YEHOVAH upon His people for their disobedience. This period expired in 1586, a central date in the Elizabethan Period which saw the beginning of the overseas expansion of the British People, in which the writings of Richard Hakluyt played such an important part. Professor Lacey Baldwin Smith writes concerning Hakluyt that he was: “the most influential of the select band of literary Elizabethans who -- like Gilbert, Davies, Dee and Raleigh -- publicized their vision of a greater England beyond the seas.”

Hakluyt’s vision commenced in his school-days at Westminster School, when he visited his cousin and namesake who was a gentleman of the Middle Temple. Lying on his cousin’s table were some books on cosmography and a map of the world. In answering the schoolboy’s questions on these, his cousin ended up by giving him a lecture on the “divisions of the earth, pointing out the rivers, capes and bays and the territorial divisions with a disquisition on the commodities and requirements of each country.” Then, significantly, his cousin took him to the Bible and asked him to read out the 23rd and 24th verses of Psalms 107.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.

Hakluyt writes concerning this incident that: “he was then told things that were of high and rare delight to his young nature.” Whilst studying for his degree at Oxford, he spent as much time as he could reading every narrative of overseas exploration and adventure he could get a hold of -- and he mastered six languages in order to do this! He came to realize that there were two hindrances to future colonization: the ignorance of most seamen regarding the scientific branch of their profession, the absence of records and the way important voyages and travels were allowed to fall into oblivion. To remedy this he commenced a series of lectures on the construction and use of maps, spheres and navigation instruments. He collected all the information he could concerning every overseas venture undertaken by his countrymen. To achieve his task he befriended the captains, merchants and mariners of his day, including Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher.

He took Holy Orders and one historian wrote that “as a clergyman he became obsessed with an almost Divine calling -- the duty to tell the Elizabethans that the seas were open to all men of courage, that Cathay was within reach and that North America must be planted with Englishmen.” Through his first book attracting the attention of Lord Howard, the Lord Admiral of the Queen’s Navy, Lord Howard’s brother, Sir Edward Stafford, who had been appointed Ambassador to France, took Hakluyt as his chaplain. In Paris he was indignant to hear Frenchmen speak contemptuously of the “sluggish security” of the English and he began his greatest work The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation, which was published in 1589. Of this great work of 700,000 words, Professor Lacey Baldwin Smith wrote with rare insight: “It remains a unique work, a combination of pithy narrative, history, diplomacy and economics welded together by a towering historical vision and unrivaled accuracy into the prose epic of the modern English Nation.” Within the next decade the book had inspired so much exploration and colonization by Englishmen that the second edition required another million words to describe them. Hakluyt wrote proudly that “Englishmen, through the special assistance and blessing of God, in searching the most opposite corners and quarters of the world, and, to speak plainly, in compassing the vast globe of the earth more than once, have excelled all nations and peoples of the earth.” Again with profound understanding Professor Lacey Baldwin Smith writes: “His was a heroic optimistic vision -- yet over the next three centuries his dreams were more than fulfilled and his work remained the epic of inspiration which he intended.”

One of the great thrills for students of Latter Day Israel is to discern how YEHOVAH God has raised up individuals like Hakluyt throughout our history to fulfil His great purposes for His People. Another is to read historians, who, in their sincere search for truth stumble upon greater truths than they themselves realize. The patriotic Elizabethan poet, Michael Drayton, wrote a poem in 1605, which relates to our subject:

To The Virginian Voyage

You brave heroic minds
Worthy your country’s name,
That honour still pursue;
Go and subdue,
Whilst loitering hinds
Lurk here at home with shame.

Britons, you stay too long;
Quickly aboard bestow you,
And with a merry gale,
Swell your stretched sail,
With vows as strong
As the winds that blow you.

And in regions far,
Such heroes bring ye forth,
As those from whom we came;
And plant our name
Under that star
Not known unto our north.

The voyages attend
Industrious Hackluit,
Whose reading shall inflame
Men to seek fame,
And much commend
To after times thy wit.

One of the great needs for our day is that in this time of crises, YEHOVAH God will raise up new Hakluyts to help our people understand how YEHOVAH has so richly blessed us and guided us throughout our history; and that all they have to do is to REPENT and turn to Him to be delivered out of their grievous troubles.


Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.