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There is a volume entitled, “A Prayse and Reporte of Martyne Frobisher's voyage to Meta Incognita, by Thomas Churchyard,” published at London, in 1578, (in Library of British Museum, title Churchyard,) wherein it is said, “ I find that Gabotta was the first, in king Henry VII.'s days, that discovered this frozen land or seas from sixty-seven towards the North, and from thence towards the South, along the coast of America to 36 degrees and a half,” &c.
Herrera, (dec. i. lib. 6. cap. 16,) in rejecting the fraction adopts the higher number, and states Cabot to have reached 68°. - We proceed now to establish the proposition which stands at the head of this chapter, but must first disclaim for it a character of novelty, since in Anderson's History of Commerce, (vol. i. p. 549,) is found the following passage :
“ How weak then are the pretensions of France to the prior discovery of North America, by alleging that one John Verazzan, a Florentine, employed by their King, Francis I., was the first discoverer of those coasts, when that king did not come to the crown till about nineteen years after our Cabot's discovery of the whole coast of North America, from sixty-eight degrees north, down to the south-end of Florida ? So that, from beyond Hudson's Bay (into which Bay, also, Cabot then sailed, and gave English names to several places therein) southward to Florida, the whole compass of North America, on the Eastern coast thereof, does, by all the right that prior discovery can give, belong to the Crown of Great Britain : excepting, however, what our monarchs have, by subsequent treaties with other European powers, given up or ceded.”
The same assertion appears in the work as subsequently enlarged into Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, (vol. ii. p. 12.)
The statement is sufficiently pointed ; and it is not impossible, that Anderson, who wrote seventy years ago, and whose employments probably placed within his reach many curious documents connected with the early efforts to discover a North-West passage to India, may have seen one of Cabot's maps. As he is silent with regard to the source of his information, it is necessary to seek elsewhere for evidence on the subject.
A conspicuous place is, on many accounts, due to the testimony of Lord Bacon. Every student of English History is aware of the labour and research he expended on the History of Henry VII. He himself, in one of his letters, speaking of a subsequent tract, says, “ I find Sir Robert Cotton, who poured forth what he had in my other work, somewhat dainty of his materials in this.” We turn, then, with eagerness, to his statement as to Sebastian Cabot.
“ He sailed, as he affirmed at his return, and made a card thereof, very far westward, with a quarter of the North on the North side of Terra de Labrador, until he came to the latitude of sixty-seven degrees and a half finding the seas still open.”
It would be idle to accompany this statement with any thing more than a request that a map of that region may be looked at in connexion with it.
The Tract of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on the North West-passage, was originally published in 1576. It is reprinted, with mutilations which will be mentioned hereafter, in Hakluyt. Referring, for the present, to the latter work, we find at page 16 of the third volume, the following passage :
“Furthermore, Sebastian Cabot, by his personal experience and travel, hath set forth and described this passage in his Charts, which are yet to be seen in the Queen's Majesty's Privy Gallery at Whitehall, who was sent to make this discovery by King Henry the VII., and entered the same fret, affirming that he sailed very far westward with a quarter of the north on the north side of Terra de Labrador the 11th of June, until he came to the septentrional latitude of sixty-seven degrees and a half, and finding the sea still open, said, that he might and would have gone to Cataia, if the mutiny of the master and mariners had not been.”.
In the “ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum," of the celebrated Geographer Ortelius, will be found a map designated as “ America sive Novi Orbis descriptio;” in which he depicts, with an accuracy that cannot be attributed to accident, the form of Hudson's Bay, and a channel leading from its Northern extremity towards the Pole. The publication preceded not only Hudson but Frobisher; and Ortelius tells us that he had Cabot's Map before him. Prefixed to his work is a list, alphabetically arranged, (according to the christian names,) of the authors of whose labours he was
possessed, and amongst them is expressly mentioned Sebastian Cabot. The map was of the World, “ Universalem Tabulam quam impressain æneis formis vidimus.”
The statement of the Portuguese writer, Galvano, translated by Hakluyt, is curious, and though there is reason in many places to apprehend interpolation by Hakluyt, yet the epithet Deseado is plainly retained from the Portuguese ; signifying the desired, or sought for. It is unquestionable, that this account, though not perfectly clear, represents Cabot's extreme northern labour to have been the examination of a bay and a river; and from the name conferred, we may suppose, that they were deemed to be immediately connected with the anxious object of pursuit. On the map of Ortelius, the channel running from the northern part of the bay has really the appearance of a river. After reaching the American coast, the expedition is said, by Galvano, to have gone“ straight northwards till they came into 60° of latitude, where the day is eighteen hours long, and the night is very clear and bright. There they found the aire colde, and great Islands of Ice, but no ground in an hundred fathoms sounding; and so from thence, finding the land to turn eastwards, they trended along by it, discovering all the bay and river named Deseado, to see if it passed on the other side. Then they sailed back againe, till they came to 38° toward the Equinoctial Line, and from thence returned into England.” (p. 33.)
A writer whose labours enjoyed in their day no little celebrity, and may be regarded, even now, as not unworthy of the rank they hold in the estimation of his countrymen, is the noble Venetian, Livio Sanuto, whose posthumous “Geografia,” appeared at Venice, in 1588. The work, of which there is a copy in the Library of the British Museum, owes its chief interest, at present, to certain incidental speculations on matters connected with Naval Science, of which the author was deeply enamoured. Repeated allusions occur to the map of “il chiarissimo Sebastiano Caboto.” Having heard, moreover, from his friend, Guido Gianeti da Fano, at one time ambassador at London, that Sebastian Cabot had publicly explained to the King of England the subject of the Variation of the Needle, Sanuto became extremely anxious, in reference to a long meditated project of his own, to ascertain where Cabot had fixed a point of no variation. The ambassador could not answer the eager enquiry, but wrote, at the instance of Sanuto, to a friend in England, Bartholomew Compagni, to obtain the information from Cabot. It was procured accordingly, and is given by Sanuto, (Prima Parte, lib. i. fol. 2,) with some curious corollaries of his own. The subject belongs to a different part of our enquiry, and is adverted to here only to shew the author's anxious desire for accurate and comprehensive information and the additional value thereby imparted to the passage, (Prima Parte, lib. ii. fol. 17,) in which he gives an account of Cabot's voyage corresponding, minutely, with that which Sir Humphrey Gilbert derived from the map hung up in Queen Elizabeth's Gallery.*
Some items of circumstantial evidence may be adverted to:
Zeigler, in his work on the Northern Regions, speaking of the voyage of Cabot, and the statement of his falling in with so much ice, remarks, (Argent ed. of 1532. fol. 92. b.)
“ Id testatur quod non per mare vastum, sed propinquis littoribus in sinus formam comprehensum navigarit, quando ob eadem caussam sinus Gothanus concrescat quoniam strictus est, et fluviorum plurium et magnorum ostia salsam naturam in parva copia superant. Inter autem Norduegiam et Islandiam non concrescit ex diversa causa, quoniam vis dulcium aquarum illic superatur à vastitate naturæ salsæ.” “ This testifieth that he had sailed not by the main sea, but in places near unto the land, comprehending and embracing the sea in form of a gulph ; whereas for the same cause the Gulph of Gothland is frozen, because it is straight and narrow, in the which also, the little quantity
*“ E quivi à punto tra questi dui extremi delle due Continenti giunto che fu il chiarissimo Sebastiano Caboto in gradi sessenta sette e mezo navigando allora per la quarta di Maestro verso Ponente ivi chiaro vide essere il mare aperto e spatiosissima senza veruno impedimento. Onde giudico fermamente potersi di la navigare al Cataio Orientale il che ancho haverche a mano a mano fatto se la malignatá del Padrone e de i marinari sollevati non lo havessero fatto ritornari à dietro."
of salt water is overcome by the abundance of fresh water, of many and great rivers that fall into the gulph. But between Norway and Iceland, the sea is not frozen, for the contrary cause, forasmuch, as the power of fresh water is. there overcome of the abundance of the salt water.” (Eden's Decades, fol. 268.)
Eden says, in a marginal note, “ Cabot told me that this Ice is of fresh water and not of the sea.'
Great perplexity has been caused by the statement that the expedition under Cabot found the coast incline to the North-East. “He himself informs us that he reached only to 56° N. lat., and that the coast in that part tended to the East. This seems hardly probable, for the coast of Labrador tends neither at 56° nor at 58° to the East.” (Forster, p. 267.) So Navarette (tom. iii. p. 41) thinks that Ramusio's statement cannot be correct, because the latitude mentioned would carry the vessel to Greenland.
It is to be remembered, that the language of Cabot suggests that at the immediate point of arrest he was cheered by the prospect of success. We are led, then, to infer that the sanguine adventurer was, for some reason, inspired with fresh confidence in which his associates refused to participate; and that, terrified by the perils they had encountered, their dissatisfaction came to a head when they found a new career of peril suggested by what they deemed, the delusive hopes of their youthful commander. Let us look into the subject with the aid which these suggestions afford. Bylot, who, after penetrating into Hudson's Bay, proceeded up its Northern channel on the west side, as far as 65° and-a-half, represented the coast as tending to the NorthEast. The Quarterly Review (vol. xvi. p. 158), in an article urging a new expedition in search of the North-West passage, refuses its belief to this statement. We turn then to Captain Parry's Narrative of his Second Voyage. It is apparent from an inspection of the map that the course pointed out by Cabot, for passing through the Strait, would conduct a Navigator, without fail, to Winter Island. Now from the very outset of Captain Parry's course from that point, we find him engaged in a struggle with the North-Eastern tendency of the coast. On 13th July, he