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John and Sebastian Cabot,
A FOUR HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY MEMORIAL
OF THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
HARRY HAKES, M. D.
MEMBER OF THE WYOMING HISTORICAL AND GEOLOGICAL Society,"
THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PENNSYLVANIA, &c., &c.: :
READ BEFORE THE WYOMING HISTORICAL AND GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY,
JUNE 24th, 1897.
Prepared at the request of and published by the Society.
JOHN AND SEBASTIAN CABOT.
READ BEFORE THE WYOMING HISTORICAL AND GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY,
BY HARRY HAKES, M. D.,
JUNE 24, 1897.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen :
Patriotism is a sentiment, a disposition of the heart, and finds many and widely different modes of exiniplification : and expression, as shouting, ringing bells; firing: cannan, processions, fasting and prayer, music, raising ‘moiranrents; and erecting arches, &c.
The celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the declaration of American independence, and the world's fair at Chicago, commemorative of the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus, as well as the recent dedication of the tomb of General Grant, and the erection of a beautiful equestrian statue of George Washington, were acts indicative of a noble patriotism. Notwithstanding the history of the world shows a great preponderance of military hero-worship, rather than tributes to the grand heroes and leaders in the domain of ideas, yet there is much to encourage the thought that the grade of learning, of civilization, of philosophy and religious ethics now foreshadowed, to distinguished the past from the future, will more and more predominate, to determine that the world's greater heroes are those whose labors culminate in producing the greatest degree of universal peace and happiness without bloodshed and terror.
In this brief paper it is as impossible as unnecessary, and out of place, to attempt to produce a polished literary gem. History, however, is more than a mere chronological statement of facts. In its broader conception it must embrace
the philosophy or ideas which constitute the ground work upon which all facts are based. In other words, theory must precede action.
John Cabot, certainly, and Sebastian Cabot, possibly, were the first Europeans to discover the American continent and make record and cartographical representation of the same, preserving to all posterity the time, place and circumstance of their discovery. To the present time the American people have neglected to place one stone upon another designed to memorialize those men, or to express gratitude for the geogcaphical discovery, which either made our great nation a possibility, or an accomplished fact. While we claim for tire Cabrits the distinguished honor of the first view of the American continent, technically, and in fact, we do not presume to name them as the discoverers of America, in the largest and more just sense of the phrase. That distinguished honor the world has long since accorded to Christopher Columbus, and their righteous judgment should never again be disputed. The discovery and exploration of America cannot be understood by one distinct statement of fact. The results of various navigations and explorations, attended with much peril and anxious solicitude, covering a period of two hundred years, makes intelligible and plain to us, what to the early navigators and explorers was chaotic and at most dubious, and solely problematical. Nor is it necessary for the purposes of this paper that we review all that early history in detail. The nautical problem and the geographical discoveries proposed by Diaz, Da Gama, Columbus, Magellan, Verrazano, and the Cabots, was not to find an unknown continent, but solely to ascertain the most feasible route to the eastern shores of Asia. At the time the Cabots made their first voyage of discovery all the knowledge that Europe possessed pertinent to the great problem was that Columbus had come upon islands in the Atlantic which he and all others supposed was the continent of Asia, or immedi
ate outlying islands. That discovery was made on the eleventh day of October, A.D. 1492. When Columbus returned to Spain, in the Spring of 1493, and reported his discovery, Pope Alexander VI promptly proceeded to make partition between Spain and Portugal, of all the regions of the earth lying between Western Europe and Eastern Asia. This decree (technically called a “bull”) gave all lands discovered, or to be discovered, to the west of a meridian one hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde islands to Spain, and all lands eastward of that line to Portugal. The convention of Tordesillas, June 7, 1494, fixed the line of demarcation at a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands. This was very acceptable to Spain and Portugal, but England recognized no such right or authority in the Papal office. In the meantime the discovery of Columbus was bruited among the English people, and at the English court. Both court and people were pricked with enterprise to compete with Spain for a share of what was to be gained by discoveries at the west. This fact is the proper introduction of the Cabots to our consideration. We need constantly to keep before our minds the total ignorance of all parties at that time of the real nature of the discovery of Columbus. Columbus supposed he had reached Eastern Asia, and no one then could dispute his claim. No correct conception was possible until twenty years had passed, and Balboa had, from the height of Darien, discovered ten thousand miles of ocean breadth between the newly discovered lands and Eastern Asia.
John Cabot, like Columbus, was a native of Genoa. He later removed to Venice, and became a citizen of that place. He migrated to England about the year 1490, with his three sons, the second of them being Sebastian, who was 24 or 25 years of age in 1497. The services of father and son are so commingled and confused by the chroniclers of their day that it is an impossible task on our part to justly distinguish and