Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][merged small]
[ocr errors]

AKLUYT, a Prebendary of Brif

tol, in 1584, in writing the “Early History of Maritime Enterprise,”

conferred a great boon on all succeeding historians ; but it must be allowed that, occasionally, he took great liberties with the text of his authorities.

His errors have been followed to a greater or lesser extent, by our principal naval writers, who were most of them content to accept

his authority without the trouble of further search.

Thus the three or more voyages of Cabot are jumbled together in Ramusio's statement altered by Hakluyt, and again by his copyists, leaving the whole a contradictory and bewildering puzzle to all who read the differing statements.

The writer has felt that the recent discovery in the “ Bibliothèque Imperial” of a map of Cabot, dated 1544, gives a key to the enigma, and the following pages attempt to define the separate voyages, the object and results of each, from a careful analysis of all the evidence at command.

Still, had Biddle's memoir of Sebastian Cabot (A.D. 1831) been written in a conciser and clearer style, with less of petulance and hypercriticism, the probabilities are that this attempt would never have been made.

His work is full of historic research, and has done good service; the writer has drawn largely from his materials, and desires to acknowledge the obligation.

Differing widely from him on some points, it is but right to add that the author's conclufions have been mainly arrived at through evidence which was not known to be in exiftence thirty years since. .

This additional evidence created a desire to clear the character of a fellow-citizen, and to place him in his proper position before the world. For that Cabot was really a great man,

few or none who read these

will dispute.


Nor does his greatness arise from the mere accident of discovery. What he found he fought for, or, at all events, its equivalent; whilst his whole life manifests a persistent, energetic determination to attain a given object; combined with a capacious power of intellect, which enabled him to grasp, determine, explain, and apply problems in science that his contemporaries understood not.

In him was the proverb verified : “Seeft thou a man diligent in business ? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” The haughty grandees of Spain owned him as their peer, whilst the noblest blood of England held office under him.

The man who could not only come out unscathed from the hotbed of tyranny, licentious cruelty, and debasing superstition which Spain and the Spanish possessions in America openly displayed in that age, but could pen those prudent, wise, and pious instructions which he gave to the men whom he selected and employed, must ever be entitled to the epithet of a great man.

What he did for his country, its commerce and its shipping, the following pages will in some measure indicate.

Though his dust lies in an unknown and unhonoured grave, and his statue graces neither palace nor city, if this work should clear for him a niche in the memory of his countrymen, it will be by them speedily filled, for

“A good man's deeds are his best monument; And Sebastian Cabot will henceforth have a home in every English heart, as well as in that of the great nation who dwell in the land which he first discovered, and which ought at this day, instead of America, to be called Cabotia.

« AnteriorContinuar »