Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

which are yet to be seen in the Queen Majesty's Privy Gallery at Whitehall, who was sent to make this discovery by king Henry VII.

It would certainly require less audacity to associate here the name of the father, as it is found in the patent, than to do that of which Hakluyt has already been convicted. Richard Willes, who, in the treatise already cited, and which is given in Hakluyt, addresses Lady Warwick “ from the court,” and speaks familiarly of Sebastian Cabot's map, makes no allusion to the father.

There is a treatise on“ Western planting" copied into Hakluyt, (vol. iii. p. 165,) as “written by Sir George Peckham, Knt., the chief adventurer and furtherer of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's voyage;" in which, speaking of the English title to America, he says, (p. 173,) “In the time of the Queen's grandfather of worthy memory, king Henry VII., Letters Patent were, by his Majesty, granted to John Cabota, an Italian, to Lewis, Sebastian, and Sancius, his three sons, to discover remote, barbarous, and heathen countries; which discovery was afterwards executed to the use of the Crown of England, in the said king's time, by Sebastian and Sancius, his sons, who were born here in England.Thus, with a full knowledge of the introduction of the name of the father and the eldest brother into the Patent, Sir George seems to negative the idea that they took any part in the execution of the enterprise. Yet it must be admitted that this piece of evidence, strong as it seems, is weakened by noticing the statements coupled with it. He continues, (p. 173) “In true testimony whereof, there is a fair haven in Newfoundland, knowen and called until this day by the name of Sancius Haven, which proveth that they first discovered upon that coast, from the height of 63 unto the cape of Florida, as appeareth in the Decades.” The reference here is to the Decades of Peter Martyr, which certainly do not bear out the conclusion. The writer probably determined the question of latitude by observing that Cabot, according to Willes, fixed the mouth of the Strait between 61° and 64°; and as to the Haven, the allusion is probably to Placentia Bay, or as it is written on

the old maps of Newfoundland, Plasancius, a title which, as found in the mouths of seamen, might readily suggest to the ear the name of the youngest patentee.

There is one account that mentions John Cabot, but it was written subsequently to the publication, by Hakluyt in 1582,

of the patent containing the father's name which would, of itself, suggest the association. It is the narrative, by Haies, of the Expedition of 1583, (see Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 144,) which we cite on the possibility that it may do no more than an act of justice, and because it serves to 'shew how uniformly the claims of England in America have been rested on the discoveries in the time of Henry VII.

The first discovery of these coasts (never heard of before) was well begun by John Cabot the father, and Sebastian his son, an Englishman born, &c. all which they brought and annexed unto the crown of England." “ For not long after that Christopher Columbus had discovered the Islands and Conti.. nent of the West Indies for Spain, John and Sebastian Cabot made discovery also of the rest from Florida Northwards to the behoof of England.”

« The French did but review that before discovered by the English Nation usurping upon our right.” “ Then seeing the English Nation only hath right unto these countries of America, from the Cape of Florida Northward, by the privilege of first discovery, unto which Cabot was authorised by regal authority, and set forth by the expense of our late famous King Henry VII. which right, also, seemeth strongly defended on our behalf by the bountiful hand of Almighty God, notwithstanding the enterprises of other nations, it may greatly encourage us upon so just ground as is our right,” &c.

The fact that the father is named in the Patent does not furnish conclusive evidence that he embarked in either of the expeditions. The original grant conveys to the father and his three sons, “and to the heirs of them and their Deputies," full power to proceed in search of regions before unknown, and the exclusive privilege of trading. Now it has never been supposed that all the sons engaged in the voyage, and yet the presumption is just as strong with regard to each of them as to the father, and even more so if we look to the appropriate season of life for perilous adventure. The truth seems to be this :-as it is probable that all the means of the family were embarked in this

E

[ocr errors]

enterprise, it was no unnatural precaution that the patent should be coextensive in its provisions. It created them a trading corporation with certain privileges, and it might as well be contended, for a similar reason, that the Marquis of Winchester, the Earl of Arundel, and the other patentees of the Muscovy Company (1 Hakluyt, p. 268) actually sailed in the north-eastern voyages. The second patent is to the father alone. If we seek a reason for this departure from the original arrangement, it may be conjectured that some of the sons chose to give a different direction to a parental advance and their personal exertions ; and that the head of the family thought fit to retain, subject to his own discretionary disposal, the proposed investment of his remaining capital. It is said* that one of the sons settled at Venice, and the other at Genoa. The recital of the discovery by the Father would, of course, be stated, under the circumstances, as the consideration of the second patent in his favour.

Another reason for the introduction of the father's name, concurrently at first with his son's and afterwards exclusively, may perhaps be found in the wary character of the King, whose own pecuniary interests were involved in the result. He might be anxious thus to secure the responsibility of the wealthy Venetian for the faithful execution of the terms of the patent, and finally think it better to have him solely named, rather than commit powers, on their face assignable, to young men who had no stake in the country, and who were not likely to make it even a fixed place of residence.

On the whole, there may at least be a doubt whether the father really accompanied the expedition. Unquestionably, the great argument derived from the pretended language of a contemporary annalist is not only withdrawn, but thrown into the opposite scale.

Supposing, however, John Cabot to have been on board, we must, in enquiring what were his functions, carefully put aside the thousand absurdities which have had their origin in miscon

* Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, vol. i. p. 310, on the authority of MS. remarks on Hakluyt.

1

ception as to the person intended by Fabyan; and remember, that we have not a tittle of evidence as to his character or past pursuits, except, as has been remarked, that he came to London “ to follow the trade of merchandise." All that is said about his knowledge of the sphere -- his perfect acquaintance with the sciences, &c., is merely an amplification of the remarks of Fabyan, as to Sebastian Cabot. If, then, he went at all, it was in all probability merely for the purpose of turning to account his mercantile skill and sagacity in the projected traffic which formed one of the objects of the expedition. There is nothing to control, in the slighest degree, the idea which presses on us from so many quarters, that the project had its origin with the son, and that its great object was to verify his simple, but bold, proposition that by pushing to the north a shorter route might be opened to the treasures of Cataya.

If the youth of Sebastian Cabot be objected to, as rendering his employment by Henry improbable, we must remember that the project was suggested to the English monarch at a period peçuliarly auspicious to its reception. He had just missed the opportunity of employing Columbus, and with it the treasures of the New World. Instead of cold and cheerless distrust, there was a reaction in the public mind, with a sanguine flow of confidence towards novel speculations and daring enterprises. When, therefore, one-fifth of the clear gain was secured to the king, by the

engagement of the wealthy Venetian, Henry yielded a ready ear to the bold theory and sanguine promises of the accomplished and enthusiastic young navigator.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The part of America first seen and named by Cabot, is generally considered to have been the present Newfoundland. This, however, will be far from clear if we look closely into the subject.

The evidence usually referred to as establishing the fact consists of an “extract taken out of the map of Sebastian Cabot, cut by Clement Adams,” quoted by Hakluyt and Purchas.

This would seem to have been a broad sheet, on which an attempt was made to exhibit the substance of Cabot's statement as to the country he had discovered. From the stress laid by Hakluyt and Purchas on the Extract, hung up in the privy gallery at Whitehall,* we may infer that they had never seen the original map. It would seem to have been executed after Cabot's death, and without any communication with him, for it offers conjectures as to his reasons for giving names to particular places which probably would not have been hazarded with the means so readily at hand, during his life, of attaining certainty on such points. The explanation was in Latin, and is thus given by Hakluyt, with a translation, (vol. iii. p. 6)

“ Anno Domini 1497, Joannes Cabotus Venetus, et Sebastianus illius filius eam terram fecerunt perviam, quam nullus priùs adire ausus fuit, die 24 Junii, circiter horam quintam bene manè. Hanc autem appellavit Terram primùm visam, credo quod ex mari in eam partem primùm oculos injecerat. Namque

* The disappearance of this curious document may probably be referred, either to the sales which took place after the death of Charles I., or to the fire in the reign of William III.

« AnteriorContinuar »