« AnteriorContinuar »
though he was a great Cosmographer, he was not so great a Seaman."*
Now first as to the facts. Garcia's criticism seems to be that Cabot stood across the Atalantic before he got as far South as the Cape de Verd Islands. That this very point had been the subject of anxious deliberation we learn from Peter Martyr, (Dec. vii. cap. vi.) “Cabot will set off in the next month of August, 1525. He departs no earlier, because things necessary for an enterprise of such importance cannot be prepared, nor by the course of the heavens ought he to begin his voyage before that time; as he has to direct his course towards the Equinoctial when the sun," &c.t
It might be supposed, perhaps, that the vexatious delays had caused some change of the route originally projected; but so far is this from the fact, Herrera tells us expressly
“After many difficulties Sebastian Cabot departed in the beginning of April of this year (1526) &c. He sailed to the Canaries and the Cape de Verd Islands, and thence to Cape St. Augustine,” &c. I
Thus he took the very route in which Garcia followed ! Even supposing Herrera to be mistaken, and to have described the course originally resolved on at Seville, instead of that which
“ Fue en demanda del Cabo de San Agustin, que este Piloto pone en ocho Grados, i un sesmo de Grado de la Vanda del Sur, de la otra parte de la Equinoctial. Y este Camino, por la grandes corrientes que salen de los Rios de Guinea, que baten los Navios à la Vanda del Norueste es peligroso ni le supo tomar Sebastian Gaboto (como se ha dicho) porque aunque era gran Cosmografo, no era tan gran Marinero." Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. x. cap. i.
p "Est Cabotus, Augusto mense proximo anni MDXXV, discessurus, nec citius quidem quia nec prius queunt ad rem tantum necessaria parari nec per cælorum cursus debet prius illud iter inchoari ; oportet quippe tunc versus Equinoctium vela dirigere quando Sol," &c.
“Despues de muchas dificultades partio Sebastian Gaboto à los primeros de Abril de este año, (1526,) &c. Fue navegando a las Canarias y à las Islas de Cabo Verde, y despues al Cabo de San Agustin." Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. ix. сар. iii.
Cabot actually pursued, the latter would only be found, in avoiding the Cape de Verds, opening a path which is more generally followed in modern times. Take it either way, the impudence and absurdity of the cavil are palpable. Yet note the manner in which an English writer of reputation has caught it up. *
“ Cabot's conduct in this voyage did not give satisfaction, and was thought unequal to the high reputation he had acquired. The Spanish writers say of him (!) that he was a better cosmographer than a mariner or commander.”
Wearied as the reader may be, we must advert to another sneer of this Portuguese. In ascending the La Plata, Cabot proceeded with deliberation, examining carefully the country, and opening a communication with the different tribes on its banks. This was of course a work of time as well as of labour and peril. When Garcia arrived, he proceeded hastily up the river, and boasts that " in 26 days he advanced as far as Sebastian Cabot had done in many months.”+ The folly of this idle vaunt has not deterred Herrera from making it a part of the History of the Indies ; and it has found a ready place with English writers.
We might, indeed, be almost led to believe in a concerted plan, on the part of his countrymen, to defame this great navigator were not the causes of misconception obvious. To some the perfidious translation of Stevens has proved a snare, and the few who proceeded further have been led, by an imperfect knowledge of the language, to catch at certain leading words and phrases, readily intelligible, and thus to present them apart from the context which, in the original, renders the calumny harmless and even ridiculous.
* “ A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean, &c. By James Burney, Captain in the Royal Navy," vol. i. p. 162.
f Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. i. cap. i.
CABOT ENTERS THE LA PLATA-NECESSITY FOR CAUTION-HIS PREDECESSOR
AS PILOT-MAJOR KILLED IN
ATTEMPTING TO EXPLORE THAT RIVER
CARRIES THE ISLAND OF ST. GABRIEL-HIS PROGRESS TO ST. SALVADOR
WHERE A FORT IS ERECTED ITS POSITION-LOSS IN TAKING POSSESSION.
CABOT was left in the neighbourhood of the La Plata at the moment when, by a determined effort, he shook to air the mutiny that sought to fasten on him.
It is plain, that after expelling the three individuals who, in the event of his death, were named, in succession, to the command in chief, he would not have been justified in proceeding, with the Squadron which the Emperor had confided to him, on the long and perilous voyage originally contemplated. He determined, therefore, to put into the La Plata and send advice of what had occurred. His predecessor in the office of Pilot-Major, Diego de Solis, had been slain in attempting to explore this river; Cabot now resolved to renew the experiment.
An additional reason for postponing, until further orders, the prosecution of the enterprise was the loss, by shipwreck, of one of the vessels. This fact is mentioned by Richard Eden, (Decades, fol. 316,) who has a chapter on the region of the La Plata in which he adverts to the expedition, in terms* that bespeak the reports conveyed to England, probably, by Robert Thorne, then at Seville, and his two friends who were engaged in it. He states the loss of the vessel, and that “the men that saved their lyves by swymmynge were receaved into the other shyppes.”
* “The Emperoure's Majestie and Kynge of Spayne Charles the fifte, sente forthe Sebastian Cabot (a man of great courage and skylfull in Cosmographie, and of no lesse experience as concernynge the starres and the sea) with commandment,” &c.
It is the more necessary to understand the considerations by which Cabot was influenced, as in a recent work, (Dr. Lardner's Cyclopædia, History of Maritime and Inland Discovery, vol. ii. p. 89,) the following strange assertion is found amidst a tissue of errors: “On touching at the mouth of the river in which Solis had lost his life, Cabot found two Spaniards who had deserted from that Commander, besides fifteen other stragglers from subsequent expeditions. All these men concurred in representing the country up the river as singularly rich in the precious metals, and easily persuaded Cabot to proceed in that direction !” Not the slightest allusion is made to the mutiny, or to the loss of one of the vessels. Thus, an Officer in command of the Emperor's squadron with specific orders, and under bond, moreover, to the merchants of Seville, is represented as abandoning his duty and becoming an easy dupe to the idle stories of some runaways !
At this point we have again to deplore the loss of Cabot’s Maps. One of them described his course up the La Plata, and would seem to have been made public, for Eden (Decades,
« From the mouth of the river, Cabot sayled up the same into the lande for the space of three hundreth and fiftie leagues, as he wryteth in his own Carde.” This statement is the more important, as the extent of his progress has been singularly misrepresented.
In the Conversation reported by Ramusio, and usually connected with the name of Butrigarius the Pope's legate, Cabot is made to say that he sailed up the La Plata more than six hundred leagues.* This is the passage, it may be remembered, which the Biographie Universelle could not find in Ramusio. Eden correctly translates it, (Decades, fol. 255,) but Hakluyt, who adopts his version with anxious servility, up to this point, has “ more than six score leagues”! (vol. iii. p. 7,) thus furnishing a new proof of his utter faithlessness. The exaggeration of the
fol. 316) says,
*“ Et andai all'insu per quello piu de secento leghe.” Ramusio, tom. i., fol. 415.
original, as honestly given by Eden, prepares us for Ramusio's remark, to which reference has already been made, that he could not pretend to trust his memory about the exact terms of the Conversation. Hakluyt, by an arbitrary and absurd reduction, not only obscures this presumptive evidence of general error, but leads us to infer-as such matters are usually over-rated-that, in point of fact, Cabot did not proceed so far. It will appear, presently, that there was no exaggeration in the statement of the “ Card.”
The career on which Cabot was now entering demanded circumspection as well as courage.
De Solis with a party of fifty men had been fiercely assailed and cut off, the bodies of himself and his companions devoured by the ferocious natives, and the survivors of the expedition, who witnessed the scene from the ships, had left the river in dismay, and returned to Spain with the horrid news.* In accompanying Cabot we take Herrera as our principal guide, (Dec. iii. lib. ix. cap. iii.) Running boldly up the river, which is to this day the dread of navigators, he reached a small island about half a league from the Northern shore, nearly opposite the present Buenos Ayres, and gave to it the name of Gabriel, which it yet bears. It is a short distance from Martin Garcia's island, so called after the Pilot of De Solis who was buried there, (Eden Decades, fol.316.) The natives had collected and made a very formidable show of resistance, but Cabot, according to Eden, “ without respect of peril, thought best to expugne it by one meanes or other, wherein his boldness tooke good effecte as oftentymes chaunceth in great affayres.” (Eden, fol. 316.)
At this island Cabot left his ships, and proceeding seven leagues further in boats, reached a river, to which he gave the name of St. Salvador. As it offered a safe and commodious harbour, he returned and brought up the ships, but was obliged to lighten them at the entrance of the river. Here he erected a Fort.
* Herrera, Dec. ii. lib. i. cap. vii. Peter Martyr, Dec. iii. cap. X. Gomarra, cap. lxxxix. “ Lo mataron ; i comieron con todos las Españoles que sacò, i aun quebraron el batel. Los otros que de los Navios miraban, alçaron anclas i velas, sin osar tomar vengança de la muerte de su Capitan."