« AnteriorContinuar »
senior Cabot died before the commencement of that reign, but by Henry VII., particularly as it took place on Cabot's return, and the monarch last named lived thirteen years after the “ exploit.” Campbell, therefore, has a “Memoir of Sir John Cabot,” and speaks again, with enthusiasm, of that “celebrated Venetian, Sir John Cabot."
This version has been the more generally adopted, and amongst the rest by Dr. Henry, (History of Great Britain, vol. vi. p. 618,) who informs us, on the authority of Campbell, that “ John Cabot was graciously received and knighted on his return.” The same statement is made in the Biographia Britannica, &c.
To the utter confusion of all these grave authorities, a moment's consideration will shew, that the words relied on do in themselves prove that knighthood had not been conferred. It is scarcely necessary to follow up this suggestion, by stating that in reference to one who had received that honour, they would have been not “Militis aurati,” but “ Equitis aurati.” Though the term miles is sometimes applied, in old documents, even to Peers, yet, as a popular designation, the language of the inscription negatives the idea of knighthood. In the very works immediately connected with the subject of the present volume, the appropriate phrase perpetually occurs. Thus “ Eques auratus” is used to designate Sir Humphrey Gilbert, (Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 137.) Sir Hugh Willoughby, (ib. p. 142.) Sir Martin Frobisher, (ib. p. 142.) Sir Francis Drake, (ib. p. 143.) In the dedication of Lok's translation of Peter Martyr, it is in like manner used, and we see it, at this moment, on the “effigies” of Sir Walter Raleigh prefixed to the first edition of his History of the World. It will probably be deemed very superfluous to refer to Selden's Titles of Honour, (p. 830,) for a confirmation of what has been stated.
The weight of censure must fall on Purchas, who was originally guilty of the blunder. The others assumed the fact of the knighting, and only exercised their ingenuity in deciding whether the honour was conferred on the Father or the Son.
STAGNATION OF TRADE IN ENGLAND-CABOT CONSULTED BY THE MERCHANTS
-URGES THE ENTERPRISE WHICH RESULTED IN THE TRADE TO RUSSIA
It is only from detached notes, such as those already referred to, and which meet the eye as it were by accident, that we can now form an idea of the diffusive nature of Cabot's services. One Great Enterprise, however, stands by itself, and was destined to exercise an important influence on the commerce and naval greatness of England.
An opportunity was afforded to Cabot of putting in execution a plan“ which he long before had had in his mind,"* by its happening, incidentally, to fall in with the purposes of the London merchants. The period was one of great commercial stagnation in England.
Our merchants perceived the commodities and wares of England to be in small request about us and near unto us, and that those merchandises which strangers, in the time and memory of our ancestors, did earnestly seek and desire were now neglected and the price thereof abated, although they be carried to their own parts.”+
In this season of despondency Cabot was consulted, and the suggestions which he made were adopted :
“ Sebastian Cabota, a man in those days very renowned, happening to be in
* Eden's Decades, fol. 256. + Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 243.
London, they began first of all to deal and consult diligently with him, and after much search and conference together, it was at last concluded, that three ships should be prepared and furnished out for the search and discovery of the northern part of the world, to open a way and passage to our men, for travel to new and unknown kingdoms."*
Such is the authentic history of the impulse given to English commerce at this interesting crisis. The influence of Cabot is not only attested by the passage quoted, but in the Letters Patent of Incorporation it is declared† that, in consideration of his having “been the chiefest setterforth of this journey or voyage, therefore we make, ordain, and constitute him, the said Sebastian, to be the first and present Governor of the same fellowship and community by these presents, to have and enjoy the said office of governor to him, the said Sebastian Cabota, during his natural life, without amoving or dismissing from the same room.”
But a difficulty was encountered in the alleged exclusive privileges of a very powerful body, whose odious monopoly had long exercised its baneful influence on English commerce and manufactures :
“ The time was now at length come, that the eyes of the English nation were to be opened, for their discovering the immense damage which was sustained, by suffering the German merchants of the house or college in London, called the Steelyard, so long to enjoy advantages in the duty or custom of exporting English cloths, far beyond what the native English enjoyed; which superior advantages possessed by those foreigners began, about this time, to be more evidently seen and felt, as the foreign commerce of England became more diffused. The Cities of Antwerp and Hamburgh possessed, at this time, the principal commerce of the northern and middle parts of Europe ; and their factors, at the Steelyard, usually set what price they pleased on both their imports and exports; and having the command of all the markets in England, with joint and united stocks, they broke all other merchants. Upon these considerations, the English company of merchant adventurers made pressing remonstrances to King Edward the Sixth's Privy Council. These Hanseatics were, moreover, accused (and particularly the Dantzickers) of defrauding the customs, by colouring, or taking under their own names, as they paid little or no custom, great quantities of the merchandise of other foreigners not intitled to their immunities. They were also accused of having frequently exceeded
* Voyage of Richard Chancellor, Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 243.
the bounds of even the great privileges granted to them by our Kings; yet, by the force of great presents, they had purchased new grants.”
Having, for the last forty-five years, had the sole command of our commerce, (says the author,) they had reduced the price of English wool to one shilling and six-pence per stone. The Steelyard merchants were also excused from aliens duties, and yet all their exports and imports were made in foreign bottoms; which was a very considerable loss to the nation.”+
“ This is the substance of the whole business during King Edward the Sixth's reign, of reversing the privileges of the Steelyard merchants, taken from our histories, but more particularly from I. Wheeler's Treatise of Commerce, published in quarto, in the year 1601; and, as he was then Secretary to the Merchant Adventurers' Company, it may be supposed to be, in general, a true account, and is surely an useful part of commercial history. Wheeler adds, that by reversing these privileges, our own merchants shipped off in this year forty thousand cloths for Flanders. Rapin, in his History of England, observes, that the Regent of Flanders, as well as the City of Hamburgh, earnestly solicited to have the Steelyard merchants re-instated; but to no purpose."!
The extraordinary interest felt by Edward himself on this subject is manifest from his Journal, in which the incidents are noted.
“ 18th January, 1551, this day the Stiliard put in their answer to a certain complaint, that the merchant adventurers laid against them.”
“ 25th January, 1551. The answer of the Stiliard was delivered to certain of my learned Counsel to look on and oversee.”
“18th February, 1551. The merchant adventurers put in their replication to the Stiliards answer.” “23rd February, 1551. A decree was made by the Board, that
knowledge and information of their charters, they had found; First, that they were no sufficient Corporation. 2. That their number, names, and nation, was unknown. 3. That when they had forfeited their liberties, King Edward IV. did restore them on this condition, that they should colour no strangers' goods, which they had done. Also, that whereas in the beginning they shipped not past 8 clothes, after 100, after 1000, after that 6000; now in their name was shipped 44000 clothes in one year, and but 1100 of all other strangers. For these considerations sentence was given, that they had forfeited their liberties, and were in like case with other strangers.”
* Anderson's History of Commerce, vol. ii. p. 90. MʻPherson's Annals of Commerce, vol. ii. p. 109. + Ibid.
Ibid. § Published in Burnet's History of the Reformation, vol. ii. from the Cotton MSS.
The difficulties which had to be struggled with, may be inferred from the pertinacity with which the defeated party followed up the matter, even after a decision had been pronounced. Thus, the following entries are found in the Journal of the young King :
“ 28th February, 1551. There came Ambassadors from Hamburg and Lubeck, to speak on the behalf of the Stiliard merchants."
“ 2d March, 1551. The answer for the Ambassadors of the Stiliard was committed to the Lord Chancellor, the two Secretaries, Sir Robert Bowes, Sir John Baker, Judge Montague, Griffith Sollicitor, Gosnold, Goodrich, and Brooks."
“ 2d May, 1551. The Stiliard men received their answer ; which was, to confirm the former judgment of my Council.”
The important agency of Cabot, in a result so auspicious not merely to the interests of commerce but to the public revenue, may be judged of from a donation bestowed on him, a few days after the decision.*
“ To Sebastian Caboto, the great seaman, 200 pounds, by way of the king's majesty's reward, dated in March, 1551.”
* Strype's Historical Memorials, vol. ii. p. 495.