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Sebastian Cabot's Last Work.


Cabot, accompanied with divers gentlemen and gentlewomen,” went to Gravesend to inspect the ship previous to its departure.

“ Master Cabot,” adds Burrough, * gave to the poor most liberal alms, wishing them to pray for the good fortune and prosperous success of the Searchthrift; and then, at the sign of the Christopher, he and his friends banqueted, and made me and them

hat were in the company great cheer; and, for very joy that he had to see the towardness of our intended discovery, he entered into the dance himself among the rest of the young and lusty company; which being ended, he and his friends departed, most gently commending us to the governance of Almighty God.” *

With that pleasant view of Cabot giving alms and dancing, at the age of eighty-four, to show his sympathy with the adventurers in that work of arctic discovery to which his long life had been devoted, we almost lose sight of him. He appears never to have been in favour with Queen Mary and her Spanish husband, who owed him an old grudge for withdrawing himself from the service of Spain ; and it is supposed to have been in an outburst of royal spite that he was forced, on the 27th of May, 1557, to resign his appointment as Grand Pilot of England,and only allowed two days afterwards to resume it in partnership with a William Worthington. Cabot's old age may have been sufficient reason for this change; but friends of English enterprise declared that in Worthington's appointment the office of Grand Pilot, “ to the great hindrance of the commonwealth, was miserably turned to private uses."* Posterity, at any rate, owes no gratitude to William Worthington. He seems to have done nothing in the interests of commerce and navigation ; and by him, or those to whom he confided them, were lost all the charts and documents, in illustration of his own and other men's voyages of discovery which Cabot had been collecting for sixty years. †

* HAKLUYT, vol. i., p. 274. † RYMER, Fodera, vol. xv., p. 427. # Ibid., p. 466.

Our last view of Cabot, eminently characteristic of the man, is on his death-bed. During his last hours, we are told, the thoughts and wishes that had been with him all through life were as strong as ever. He talked flightily to his friend Richard Eden about a divine revelation made to him as to an infallible way of finding the longitude of any place, which he was not allowed to disclose to the world ;f and then he died, certainly not less than eighty-five years old. Concerning the date and place of his death we have no information. In the turmoil of religious persecution he and his cherished projects were almost forgotten. But the projects were revived under the better rule of Queen Elizabeth, and suggested a field for the exercise of that adventurous spirit for which, above all others, her reign is famous. * HAKLUYT, vol. i., Dedication.

+ BIDDLE, p. 221. | EDEN, Epistle Dedicatory to his translation of A Very Necessary and Profitable Book concerning Navigation by JOANNES TAISNERUS, cited by BIDDLE.




WITHIN the limits of Sebastian Cabot's lifetime is comprised all the first period of American discovery. As a young man he heard of the memorable voyage by which Columbus, going out in search of the fabled riches of Cathay, opened the way to a new world of substantial wealth. Five years later he himself took part in the hardly less memorable voyage conducted by his father, also in quest of Cathay, which issued in the first landing of civilized Europeans upon the solid continent of America. In many later enterprises, moreover, he was personally engaged, and in every one of the hundreds of others that were led by other adventurers he took a lively interest. Those which had for their object or their consequence the discovery and colonization, by Spaniards, Germans, and Portuguese, of the central and southern districts of America do not here concern us. Those in which Englishmen attempted a passage to the Indies through the seas north of America we have already reviewed. But there were a few foreign enterprises in the direction indicated by the Cabots which must be glanced at if we would understand the condition of geographical knowledge touching the districts sought and found by Frobisher and Davis when they embarked upon their work, and the precise extent to which thereby they served the cause they had at heart.

The first of these was conducted by Gaspar de Cortereal, a Portuguese gentleman, who in 1500, and again in 1502, visited the coast of North America, near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence, and tracked that river for a little way under the impression that it was a channel to the Eastern Ocean. It resulted in the establishment of a small Portuguese fishing colony in Newfoundland, and the extension, little by little, of discovery in those parts visited each summer-time by the fishing-smacks.

The French soon followed in the steps of the Portuguese, and for some years previous to 1523 they appear to have conducted annual trading expeditions to the neighbourhood of the Saint Lawrence. In 1523 they entered upon bolder work, at the instigation of their first great voyager, Juan de Verrazano, a Florentine by birth, but a Frenchman by adoption. Provided by Francis I. with four vessels, Verrazano lost two of them in a storm off the coast of Brittany, and from another he was separated near the Azores. In the fourth, the Dolphin, he left Madeira on the 17th of January, 1524. His object was to find a passage north of America towards Cathay. He only succeeded, however, in exploring the North American coast between what is


Cortereal, Verrazano, and Gomez.


now called Hudson's River, at which he first saw land, and the Saint Lawrence, whence he returned to France.

In the same year the Spaniards, not satisfied with their triumphs in the central parts of the continent and the islands adjacent to it, sent a Portuguese pilot in their employ, named Estevan Gomez, partly, as it seems, at the instigation of Sebastian Cabot, then Pilot Major of Spain, to seek a short route to the Spice Islands. His fancy was that such a route was to be found in a channel between all those northern districts to which the Spaniards gave the vague name of Baccalaos, and the more southern parts as vaguely indicated by the name of Florida. He therefore sailed up to the mouth of the Saint Lawrence, and thence searched the coast, in an opposite direction to that followed a few months before by Verrazano, down to Hudson's River, and to some distance further south. Cathay was not reached by it, but the Spaniards were thus led to take their part in the trade of fishing for cod, north and south of Newfoundland, in which the Portuguese and the French were already profitably engaged.

In these ways Europe was made tolerably familiar, before the middle of the sixteenth century, with the entire eastern coast-line of North America; and it was clearly proved that, if the Indies were anyhow to be reached by sailing out into the west, the sailing must be through those icy regions first approached by the Cabots in 1497. In proof that such a route was possible, and in earnest entreaty that it might be attempted, a number of learned arguments were put

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