What has come to be referred to as “The Good Ship Jesus” was in fact the “Jesus of Lubeck,” a 700-ton ship purchased by King Henry VIII from the Hanseatic League, a merchant alliance between the cities of Hamburg and Lubeck in Germany. Twenty years after its purchase the ship, in disrepair, was lent to Sir John Hawkins by Queen Elizabeth.
Hawkins, a cousin of Sir Francis Drake, was granted permission from Queen Elizabeth for his first voyage in 1562. He was allowed to carry Africans to the Americas “with their own free consent” and he agreed to this condition. Hawkins had a reputation for being a religious man who required his crew to “serve God daily” and to love one another. Sir Francis Drake accompanied Hawkins on this voyage and subsequent others. Drake, was himself, devoutly religious. Services were held on board twice a day.
Off the coast of Africa, near Sierra Leone, Hawkins captured 300-500 slaves, mostly by plundering Portuguese ships, but also through violence and subterfuge promising Africans free land and riches in the new world. He sold most of the slaves in what is now known as the Dominican Republic. He returned home with a profit and ships laden with ivory, hides, and sugar. Thus began the slave trade.