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CABOT APPOINTED, IN 1518, PILOT-MAJOR OF SPAIN SUMMONED TO AT.
TEND THE CONGRESS AT BADAJOS IN 1524– PROJECTED EXPEDITION
UNDER HIS COMMAND TO THE MOLUCCAS.
The result of the expedition of 1517, however it may have added in England to the fame of Cabot for ardent enterprise and dauntless intrepidity, was not such as to lead immediately to a renewed effort. There had been a failure; and a second expedition might be frustrated by similar causes. The merchants who were engaged in it had probably sustained a heavy loss, and the king was at that time full of anxious speculations about the affairs of the Continent. The horrible SweatingSickness, too, which, from July to December 1517, spread death and dismay not only through the court and the city, but over the whole kingdom, suspending even the ordinary operations of commerce, left no time to think of the prosecution of a distant and precarious enterprise. It is probable, therefore, that Cabot might have languished in inactivity but for the new and more auspicious aspect of affairs in Spain.
If the youthful successor of Ferdinand had looked into the volume dedicated to him by Peter Martyr, containing a faithful and copious account of that splendid empire in the west to which he had succeeded, he could not fail to be struck with the memorable enterprise of Cabot, and the estimate of his character by that honest chronicler. The records, too, would show the pains which had been taken to secure his services, and the posts of honour and confidence to which he had been rapidly advanced. It would doubtless be asked, what had been the issue of that expedition under his command, which it appeared was to sail in March 1516. Coup
ling its abandonment with what he found stated of the jealous denial of that Navigator's merits by the Spaniards, the sagacity of Charles could hardly fail to detect the secret causes of Cabot's disappearance.
Immediate measures in the way of atonement would seem to have been taken. In 1518 Cabot was named Pilot-Major of Spain.*
The appointment is noted in the general arrangement and scheme of reformation of that year, but we find it announced again in 1520, (Dec. ii. lib. ix. cap. vii.) with the instructions of the emperor that no pilot should proceed to the Indies without previous examination and approval by him.f Possibly, therefore, the final arrangement was not concluded until the visit of Charles V. to England in the latter year. It would seem that there was no intermediate Pilot Major between Juan de Solis and Cabot, for in a Royal order of 16th November 1523, relative to a charge in the time of De Solis, on the salary of the office (Navarette, tom. iii. p. 308), Cabot is spoken of as his successor.
The functions of this office, though of great importance and responsibility, supply, of course, but few incidents for record. We might expect to find the project of the North-West pass. age ·revived, but many considerations were opposed to it. The same reasons which suggested the passage in the North as so desirable to England, on account of her local position, would disincline Spain from the search; and we accordingly find, that the only feeble efforts in reference to it were those of Cortez and Gomez on the southern coast of North America. All eyes were directed to the South. Peter Martyr is even impatient that attention should be turned towards Florida where Ayllon had landed in 1523, and made a tedious report as to its productions. “What need have we of these things
* Herrera, Dec. ii. lib. iii. cap. vii. Ensaio Chronologico para la Florida, Introduccion.
+ Diose titulo Piloto Major à Sebastian Gaboto con orden que ningun Piloto pasase à las Indias sin ser primero por el examinado í aprobado.
which are conimon with all the people of Europe? To the South! To the South! They that seek riches must not go to the cold and frozen North” (Dec. viii. cap. x.). The hopes of adventurers were directed to the Moluccas, through the passage which Magellan had been fortunate enough to find in 53°, through toils and perils so much less than those which had been encountered in vain in the North. The next mention we find of Cabot, is a reference to his opinion (Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. iv. cap. xx.), as to the existence of many islands worthy of being explored, in the same region with the Moluccas. Seeing that the spirit of enterprise had taken his direction, he seems to have looked to it as affording a chance of more active employment than his present office. An incident soon brought him conspicuously forward in connexion with this region.
Portugal had interposed an earnest representation that the Moluccas fell within the limits assigned to her under the Papal Bull, and she remonstrated, in the strongest terms, against any attempt on the part of Spain to carry on a commerce in that quarter.* The emperor decided, therefore, that a solemn conference should be held, at which the subject might be fully discussed and an opportunity afforded to Portugal of stating her pretensions. The son of Columbus, Ferdinand, was also present.
In attendance on this remarkable assemblage, were the men most famed for their nautical knowledge and experience; not as members, but for the purpose of reference as occasion might arise. At the head of a list of these, we find the name of Cabot.† The conference was held at Badajos, in April 1524, and on the 31st May the decision was solemnly proclaimed, declaring that the Moluccas were situate, by at least 20°, within the Spanish limits. The Portuguese retired in disgust, and rumours immediately reached Spain, that the young king of Portugal was preparing a great fleet to maintain his pre
* Peter Martyr, Dec. vi. cap.
ix. † Peter Martyr, Dec. vi. cap. x. Gomara, cap. c.; Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. vi. cap. vi.; Eden, Decades, fol. 241.
tensions by force and to take and destroy any vessels which might be found presuming to urge a commerce in that quarter. *
Immediately after the decision, a company was formed at Seville to prosecute the trade which had received so high and solemn a sanction, and Cabot was solicited to take the command.† One of the parties to the association was Robert Thorne of Bristol, then resident in Spain, who with his partner was led into the adventure, “principally," as he says, “ for that two English friends of mine, which are somewhat learned in cosmographie, should go in the same ships to bring me certain relation of the country, and to be expert in the navigation of those seas.Ě In September, 1524, Cabot received from the council of the Indies permission to engage in the enterprise, and he proceeded to give bond to the Company for the faithful execution of his trust. § His original request was, that four ships properly armed and equipped should be provided at the expense of the Treasury, while the Company on its part should supply the requisite funds for the commercial objects. || The agreement with the emperor was executed at Madrid on 4th March, 1525, and stipulated that a squadron of, at least, three vessels of not less than one hundred tons should be furnished, and one hundred and fifty
The title of Captain General was conferred on Cabot. The emperor was to receive from the Company four thousand ducats and a share of the profits.
It was proposed, instead of pushing directly across the Pa
* Peter Martyr, Dec. vi. cap. x.
• Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 215. We may conjecture one of these to have been Jorge Barlo (George Barlow), who, with another, brought to Spain Cabot's Despatch from the La Plata (Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. iii. cap. i.).
Ś Peter Martyr, Dec. vü. cap. vi.
9 Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. ix. cap. iii.
** Peter Martyr, Dec. vii. cap. vi. Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. ix. cap. ii. Gomara says two hundred and fifty, but his assertion has no weight against the concurring testimony of the two Historians cited, one a member of the Council, and the other referring to official documents.
cific, after penetrating through the Strait, as Magellan had done, to proceed deliberately and explore on every side, particularly the western coast of the Continent. *
The arrangement at first was, that the expedition should sail in August, 1525;t but it was delayed by circumstances to which it may be proper now to advert as bearing on its ultimate fate.
• Peter Martyr, Dec. vii. cap. vi.