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HAKLUYT'S ERROR WITH REGARD TO THE VOYAGE OF 1517.
Hakluyt was under an impression that there should be taken in connexion with this voyage a passage in the Spanish historian Oviedo, of which he found a translation in Ramusio. It is but just that he should be fully heard on this point
“ Moreover it seemeth that Gonsalvo de Oviedo, a famous Spanish writer, alludeth unto the sayde voyage in the beginning of the 13th chapter of the 19th booke of his generall and natural historie of the West Indies, agreeing very well with the time about which Richard Eden writeth that the foresaid voyage was begun. The author's wordes are these, as I finde them translated into Italian by that excellent and famous man Baptista Ramusius."*
After giving the Italian version, Hakluyt proceeds—
“This extract importeth thus much in English, to wit: “That in the yeere 1517, an English rover, under the colour of travelling to discover, came with a great shippe unto the parts of Brasill, on the coaste of the firme lande, and from thence he crossed over unto this Iland of Hispaniola, and arrived neere unto the mouth of the haven of the citie of S. Domingo, and sent his shipboate full of men on shore, and demanded leave to enter into this haven, saying that he came with merchandise to traffique. But at that very instant the governour of the castle, Francis de Tapia, caused a tire of ordinance to be shot from the castle at the ship, for she bare in directly with the haven. When the Englishmen sawe this, they withdrew themselves out, and those that were in the shipboate, got themselves, with all speede, on ship-board. And in trueth the warden of the castle committed an oversight: for if the shippe had entred into the haven, the men thereof could not have come on lande without leave both of the citie and of the castle. Therefore the people of the ship seeing how they were received, sayled toward the land of S. John, and entering into the port of S. Germaine, the English men parled with those of the towne, requiring victuals and things needefull to furnish their ship, and complained of the inhabitants of the city of S. Domingo, saying that they came not to doe any harme, but to trade and traffique for their money and merchandise. In this place they had certaine victuals, and for recompense they gave and paid them with certain vessels of wrought tinne and other things. And
* Hakluyt, vol.ii. p. 499.
afterward they departed toward Europe, where it is thought they arrived not; for we never heard any more newes of them.”*
Herrera has an account of the visit somewhat more at large (Dec. ii. lib. v. cap. iii.), and refers to the statement of Gines Navarro, the captain of a caravel of St Domingo, who happening to be at St John when the English vessel arrived at that Island, went off to her, supposing her to be of his own country. According to him, the ship was of two hundred and fifty tons burthen, and had on board sixty men. accompanied by a pinnace having two guns in her bows, with twenty-five men armed with crossbows and wearing corslets. The commander of the ship offered to show his instructions from the king of England (“ la instruccion que llevaba de el Rei de Inglaterra”), and requested Navarro to proceed in company with his own vessel to show the way to St Domingo. The English were plentifully supplied with provisions, and had a great quantity of woollen and linen goods with other merchandise, for the purpose of traffic. They effected at St John's a barter of some tin, and proceeding afterwards to St Domingo, sent a boat ashore with a message that their object was trade, and remained off the island for two days. The commander of the fort sent to the authorities for instructions how to act, and not receiving a timely answer fired, on his own responsibility, at the strangers, on which they recalled their boat and went round to the Island of St John, and after remaining some time carrying on a barter with the inhabitants of the town of St Germain, disappeared.
The account which, according to Navarro, they gave of themselves, was this:
“ They said that they were Englishmen, and that the ship was from England, and that she and her consort had been equipped to go and seek the land of the Great Cham, that they had been separated in a tempest, and that the ship pur. suing her course had been in a frozen sea, and found great islands of ice, and that taking a different course, they came into a warm sea, which boiled like water in a kettle, and lest it might open the seams of the vessel they proceeded to examine
the Baccalaos, where they found fifty sail of vessels, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, engaged in fishing; that going on shore to communicate with the natives, the pilot, a native of Piedmont, was killed; that they proceeded afterwards along the coast to the river Chicora, and crossed over thence to the island of St John. Asking them what they sought in these islands, they said that they wished to ex. plore in order to make report to the King of England, and to procure a load of the Brasil wood.”
Such was the report of Navarro. The officer commanding the fort was arrested, because by his precipitate conduct the opportunity was lost of ascertaining who were the intruders, and what their object. On the facts being reported to the emperor, he viewed them with great uneasiness, and “wished that in the Island of St Domingo they had proceeded in a different manner, and either by force or stratagem got pos. session of the vessel. He was struck with the inconveniences likely to result from English vessels frequenting those parts, and gave strict orders that on their again appearing, measures should be adopted for taking them and making an example of them."
These circumstances are adverted to, for the purpose of showing the attention which was excited by this visit, and the anxious examination, doubtless, undergone by Navarro who had communicated with the strangers. When Herrera was ordered by Philip II. to prepare his History, there were submitted to him documents of every description, even the most minute (Decade vi. lib. iii. cap. 19). His statement, then, which goes thus into detail, was, probably, derived from the Examination, and it establishes a representation, that the Englishmen spoke of the Baccalaos as a point at which they had touched on their return from a struggle with the perils of the navigation further North.
There is found in Purchas (Pilgrims, vol. iii. p. 855), a 6 Description of the West Indies," by Herrera, being the introduction to the history, with a remark, “ This author hath written eight Decades of the Spanish Acts in the West Indies, which give great light to those parts, but would be too long for this work.” The influence of the passage just quoted is
curiously visible in Purchas. On reading it, he saw, at once, that the statement of Navarro had reference to the visit spoken of by Oviedo, and it therefore passed into his mind that the expedition proceeded, in the first instance, to the North. When he had occasion, however, to advert to the circumstance afterwards, he evidently could not recollect whence he had derived the impression, or there would have been found a reference to Herrera in his ambitious margin, instead of the vague assertion : “ Afterwards the same Sir Sebastian Cabot was sent, A.D. 1516, by king Henry the VIII., together with Sir Thomas Pert, Vice-Admiral of England, which after coasting this Continent the second time, as I have read, discovered the Coast of Brasil, and returned from thence to St Domingo and Porto Rico" (vol. iv. p. 1812).
A peculiar anxiety is felt with regard to this voyage, because it bears directly on our estimate of Cabot's character. He had taken up, with all the ardour which belongs to the conceptions of a man of his stamp, the opinion that a NorthWest passage was practicable, and we are grieved as well as surprised, to find him apparently faltering in the pursuit. We know from Peter Martyr, his undiminished confidence in 1515, and cannot understand why, immediately afterwards, he should be found in a confused, rambling voyage to the South, instead of following up his great purpose.
The examination thus far has assumed that the date given by Ramusio, in his translation of Oviedo, and adopted by Hakluyt, is correct. It now remains to show that there has been an entire misconception on this point, and that Hakluyt has paid the deserved penalty of his folly in quoting a Spanish book from an Italian translation.
The reference is correctly given to book xix. cap. xiii. of Oviedo; but on turning to the passage, he is found to represent the visit of the English ship as occurring not in 1517, but in 1527. There are in the library of the British Museum the edition of his work published at Seville in 1535, and the next edition, corrected by the author, published at
Salamanca, in 1547. In the king's library there is a copy of the latter edition. The date given in both editions is MDXXVII. It may be very idle to attempt to fortify the statement of a writer of the highest credit, and who resided in St Domingo at the very period in question; but the fact may be mentioned that his narrative had not only carried him up to this period but beyond it, for in a preceding chapter (the vii.) of the same book, he speaks of an incident which occurred in September, 1530.
As the reliance of Hakluyt is exclusively on the “famous Spanish writer Oviedo,” it might be sufficient to shift to its proper side of the scale the weight which has been thus misplaced. The point, however, is one of interest, in reference to the subsequent voyage from England, in 1527, and we may draw to the rectification the testimony of Herrera.
That writer, it is true, affixes no date to the visit, and while considering, at an early period, the condition of the colonies, he adverts to this as one of the circumstances which had led to complaint and uneasiness. This sort of grouping is always dangerous in the hands of an ambitious and florid historian, anxious to be relieved from a chronological detail of isolated facts, and to treat them in combination, and in their supposed influence on results. He has, while considering an early incident, taken up this and others which, though posterior in point of time, yet preceded the measures of precaution, of which they, in succession, indicated the necessity. The question is placed beyond doubt by another occurrence almost contemporary. Oviedo, in the same chapter which refers to the visit of the English vessel, adds, that about a year afterwards (“desde a poco tiempo o en el siguiente anno”), a French corsair made its appearance at Cuba, guided by a villainous Spaniard, named Diego Ingenio (“ guiado por un mal Espagnol llamado Diego Ingenio”). This incident is mentioned by Herrera, under the year 1529, and he states it to have taken place in the middle of October of that year (Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. vi. chap. xii.). His next chap