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CABOT's VOYAGE OF 1517 FROM ENGLAND IN SEARCH OF THE
The enterprising and intrepid spirit of our Navigator would seem to have found immediate employment, and he is found again on the Ocean. He was aided, doubtless, by being able to point to his own name in Letters Patent, granted so long before by the father of the reigning monarch, whose provisions could not, in justice, be considered as extinct.
For a knowledge of this expedition, we are indebted, principally, to Richard Eden, that friend of Cabot, to whom a tribute of
gratitude has been heretofore paid. "He published in 1553 a work* bearing this title
“A treatyse of the Newe India, with other new founde landes and Ilandes, as well Eastwarde as Westwarde, as they are knowen and found in these oure dayes after the description of Sebastian Munster, in his booke of Universal Cosmographie; wherein the diligent reader may see the good successe and rewarde of noble and honeste enterprizes, by the which not only worldly ryches are obtayned, but also God is glorified, and the Christian fayth enlarged. Translated out of Latin into English, by Rycharde Eden. Præter spem
sub spe. Imprinted at London, in Lombarde street, by Edward Sutton, 1553.”
The volume is dedicated to the Duke of Northumberland. The checks are so many and powerful on a departure from truth, even aside from the character of the writer, as to relieve us from any apprehension of mis-statement. Cabot then resided in England, occupying a conspicuous station.
* In the Library of the British Museum, title in catalogue, Munster.
about to be quoted contains a reproach on a sea-officer, of the time of Henry VIII., and it is not likely that such expressions would be addressed to one who had been Lord High Admiral in that reign, unless the facts were notorious and indisputable, particularly while many of those engaged in the expedition were living. The following is the language of the Dedication
“Which manly courage (like unto that which hath been seen and proved in your Grace, as well in forene realmes as also in this our country) if it had not been wanting in other in these our dayes at suche time as our sovereigne Lord of noble memory, King Henry the Eighth, about the same [eighth] yere of his raygne, furnished and set forth certen shippes under the governaunce of Sebastian Cabot yet living, and one Sir Thomas Perte, whose faynt heart was the cause that that viage toke none effect, if (I say) such manly courage whereof we have spoken had not at that tyme bene wanting, it myghte happelye have come to passe that that riche treasurye called Perularia (which is now in Spayne, in the citie of Civile and so named, for that in it is kepte the infinite ryches brought thither from the newefoundland of Peru) myght longe since have bene in the Tower of London, to the Kinges great honoure and welth of this his realme.”
With this passage Hakluyt (vol. iii. p. 498) properly connects the language employed by Robert Thorne in 1527, in a letter addressed to Henry VIII. The object of Thorne (Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 212) was to urge on Henry VIII. a search for the passage in the North, and he suggests three routes—the North-Eastern, afterwards attempted by Willoughby-the North-Western-and, finally, a course directly over the Pole, giving a preference, so far as may be inferred from precedence in suggestion, to the first
“ Yet these dangers or darkness hath not letted the Spaniards and Portuguese and others, to discover many unknown realms to their great peril. Which considered (and that your Graces subjects may have the same light) it will seem your Graces subjects to be without activity or courage, in leaving to do this glorious and noble enterprise. For they being past this little way which they named so dangerous, (which may be two or three leagues before they come to the Pole, and as much more after they pass the Pole) it is clear, that from thenceforth the seas and lands are as temperate as in these parts, and that then it may be at the will and pleasure of the mariners, to choose whether they will sail by the coasts, that be cold, temperate or hot. For they being past the Pole, it is plain they may decline to what part they list.”
“ If they will go toward the Orient, they shall enjoy the regions of all the Tartarians that extend toward the midday, and from thence they may go and proceed to the land of the Chinese, and from thence to the land of Cathaio Oriental, which is, of all the main land, most Oriental that can be reckoned from our habitation. And if, from thence, they do continue their navigation, following the coasts that return toward the Occident, they shall fall in with Malaca, and so with all the Indies which we call Oriental, and following the way, may return hither by the Cape of Buona Speransa ; and thus they shall compass the whole world. And if they will take their course after they be past the Pole, toward the Occident, they shall go in the backside of the Newfoundland, and which of late was discovered by your Grace's servants, until they come to the backside and south seas of the Indies Occidental. And so continuing their voyage, they may return through the strait of Magellan to this country, and so they compass also the world by that way; and if they go this third way, and after they be past the Pole, go right toward the Pole antarctic, and then decline towards the lands and islands situated between the Tropics, and under the Equinoctial, without doubt they shall find there the richest lands and islands of the World of Gold, precious stones, balmes, spices, and other things that we here esteem most which come out of strange countries, and may return the same way.
“By this it appeareth, your Grace hath not only a great advantage of the riches, but also your subjects shall not travel halfe of the way that others do, which go round about as aforesaid."
He remarks again,
“To which places there is left one way to discover, which is into the North ; for that of the four parts of the world, it seemeth three parts are discovered by other princes. For out of Spaine they have discovered all the Indies and seas Occidental, and out of Portugal all the Indies and seas Oriental : so that by this part of the Orient and Occident, they have compassed the world. For the one of them departing toward the Orient, and the other toward the Occident, met again in the course or way of the midst of the day, and so then was discovered a great part of the same seas and coasts by the Spaniards, So that now rest to be discovered the said North parts, the which it seemeth to me, is only your charge and duty. Because the situation of this your realm is thereunto nearest and aptest of all others; and also for that you have already taken it in hand. And in mine opinion it will not seem well to leave so great and profitable an enterprise, seeing it may so easily and with so little cost, labor, and danger, be followed and obtained, though heretofore your Grace hath made thereof a proofe, and found not the commodity thereby as you trusted, at this time it shall be no impediment. For there may be now provided remedies for
things, then lacked, and the inconveniences and lets removed, that then were cause that your Grace's desire took no full effect, which is, the courses to be changed, and followed the aforesaid new courses. And concerning the mariners, ships, and provisions, an order may be devised and taken meet and convenient, much better than hitherto. By reason whereof, and by God's grace, no doubt your purpose shall take effect. Surely the cost herein will be nothing, in comparison to the great profit. The labour is much less, yea nothing at all, where so great honour and glory is hoped for; and considering well the courses, truly the danger and way is shorter to us, than to Spain or Portugal, as by evident reasons appeareth."
It would seem impossible to doubt that the writer here puts distinctly to Henry, as the two grounds for looking to the North, the advantageous position of his own dominions in reference to a passage in that quarter, and the fact that his former experiment had taken that direction.
Hakluyt approached the subject under a misconception, the source of which will presently be pointed out, that Cabot had gone to the South on this occasion, and supposes that he finds a confirmation of it in that part of the passage quoted from Thorne, which speaks of a change of the courses. Not only, however, is this assumption against the evidence from other quarters, but Thorne's own words will not admit of such a construction. He had just suggested a passage by the North, and then eagerly anticipates and answers the objections which might be urged, and it naturally occurs to him as the most forcible of these, that the king had already made a proof in that quarter without success. Could he have apprehended such an objection to his project from a failure in the South? To suppose that he wished to combat the presumption against the existence of a strait arising from ill success there, will appear ridiculous, if we note that the passage in the South had been, in point of fact, discovered by Magellan, and is actually referred to by Thorne as affording a convenient route for the return voyage.
The words on which Hakluyt would lay this undue stress have ample operation when, aside from the various courses for attempting a North-West passage, here were two others suggested, and a seeming preference given to that by the North-East. Captain
Parry took many different "courses” with a more limited object in view.
In the reference made by Thorne to the Newfoundland," which of late was discovered by your Grace's subjects,” he evidently treats as an original discovery that further advance to the North, which we may presume to have been made on this occasion. The same person, in his letter to Dr. Ley, (1 Hakluyt, p. 219) speaking of the passage by the North, remarks, that he, probably, derived the “ inclination or desire of this discovery” from his father, who “ with another merchant of Bristow, named Hugh Eliot, were the discoverers of the Newfoundlands.” Now, we have seen his previous application of the epithet, which is, in truth, most appropriate to the latest discovery. Couple this with another fact. The name of Thorne does not occur in
of the patents. Of the two to which we shall have occasion hereafter to advert, subsequent to those to the Cabots, one is dated 19th March 1501, and is in favour of certain Portuguese, who are associated with three merchants of Bristol, Richard Ward, Thomas Ashehurst, and John Thomas. This is now, for the first time, published from the Rolls in the present volume. The last patent bears date 9th December 1502, and is found in Rymer (vol. xiii. p. 37.) The names of Ward and Thomas are dropped, and Hugh Eliot is associated with Ashehurst and the Portuguese. Thus the name with which Thorne connects that of his father does not appear until this late period. We have no doubt that when, after an interval of fifteen years, the reappearance of Cabot called attention to this patent, which had lain dormant, Thorne acquired from Ashehurst or his representatives the interest of that person. Robert Thorne, the son, speaks of the two associates, “my father, who with another merchant of Bristow, named Hugh Eliot,” a language well corresponding with the explanation suggested.
It appears from the epitaph of Robert Thorne, (Stow's Survey of London, and Fuller's Worthies,) that he was born in 1492, a