deeds were done on the ocean by these rough heroes of cutlass and compass. They won honor by exploring unknown seas and taking possession of and subjugating unknown lands, no less than by their prowess in the grim water-fights which have made their names immortal. Their small ships dared the dangers of the most distant oceans, and shattered the sea-might of every rival naval power; and they themselves led lives of stormy peril and strong pleasure, and looked forward unmoved to inevitable death in some one of their countless contests with man or with the elements.
For a century and a quarter Spain and Portugal had not only taken the lead in, but had almost monopolized all ocean exploration and transoceanic settlement and conquest, while the most daring navigators were to be found in their ranks, or among the Italians who served both them and their rivals. Even at the beginning of the seventeenth century they were still the only peoples who had permanently occupied any portion of the New World; and their vast possessions included all of tropical, sub-tropical, and south-temperate America. But by this time, in a hundred fights the sea-beggars and sea-rovers of Holland and England had destroyed the cumbrous navies of the Spanish king, and won from those who fought for his flag the mastery of the ocean. Spain was still a great power; but it was a power whose