Imágenes de páginas

English compilations, attributable, probably, to the wretched version of Herrera by Stevens, which names April 1525 (Stevens' Translation, vol. iii. p. 380), in defiance of the work it professes to translate. The same mistake is found in Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, and the source of the author's error becomes manifest by bis incautious citation of Herrera. The reference given is totally inapplicable to the original work, but corresponds exactly with the new and arbitrary distribution of Decades, books, and chapters by Stevens. In most recent works the date is mis-stated, amongst the rest by Mr Southey (History of Brasil, p. 52), and by the Quarterly Review (vol. iv. p. 459). The former writer, speaking of this voyage in 1526, infers from Cabot's being called Pilot-Major, that Americus Vespucius who had held that office was "probably" then dead (p. 52), a singular remark, as it is well known that Vespucius died fifteen years before. He was succeeded, as we have seen, by Juan Dias de Solis. Cabot's appointment as Pilot-Major in 1518, his attendance at Badajos, &c., are altogether unnoticed in the pretended translation of Stevens !




We look for an explosion as the vessels quit the shore. It would seem, however, that the train was prepared to burn more slowly. The Squadron is seen to move on steadily and in silence, but beneath the fair and smiling canvass we know there is dark treachery.

In attempting to pierce the obscurity which veils the scenes that follow, and to place ourselves by the side of Cabot, we have unfortunately to rely on those whose very purpose is disparagement. Yet to that quarter we do not fear to turn, and have at least an assurance that we shall find whatever the most malignant industry could collect.

Something is said by Herrera as to a scarcity of provisions, owing, as far as he will speak out, to their injudicious distribution amongst the vessels. Now it is quite inconceivable that in an expedition prepared for the circumnavigation of the globe there should have been found this deficiency on the coast of Brasil, and the fact, moreover, would be disgraceful to the commanders of the other vessels, and to the agents at home. It is obvious that while nothing is more unlikely than such improvidence on the part of Cabot, it would be easy for disaffected officers to circulate amongst the men complaints of scarcity, and thus refer the odium of a limited allowance to the Commander-in-Chief.

We hear, also, that he did not take sufficient pains to soothe the angry feelings which had been excited at Seville. * Then

* The whole passage has that air of vagueness so characteristic of falsehood.

it seems that dissatisfaction arose not from any thing occurring during the voyage, but from continued brooding over antecedent griefs. Doubtless, Martin Mendez, of whose unfitness Cabot had made a representation, and against whose mischieyous intermeddling he had been forced to obtain a stipulation, was in no very complacent mood, even if we put out of view the probability of his having been tampered with by the Portuguese. The complaint, too, that Cabot did not sufficiently exert himself to make others forget the late angry discussions, comes from the very persons who broke out into open mutiny, and whose statements, embittered by a recollection of the severe punishment inflicted on them, compose our evidence. It might be superfluous to add a word to this explanation, yet the remark cannot be forborne, that if there be one trait in the character of Cabot more clearly established than another, it is the remarkable gentleness of his deportment; and in every reference to him, by those who had enjoyed a personal intercourse, there breaks forth some endearing form of expression that marks affectionate attachment.

But pretexts will never be wanting where a mutinous temper exists. The squadron was running down the coast of Brasil when it seems to have been thought necessary to bring matters to a crisis. Murmurs became general and vehement. The Lieutenant-General Mendez, De Rojas, and De Rodas were louder than the rest in blaming the government of Cabot.* In a word, relying on the clamour they had raised, it is plain that these men now broke out into open insolence, presuming that disaffection would thus reach its height, and a new arrangement take place conformably to the indication of the Sealed Orders.

The situation of Cabot would to one of ordinary stamp have

“Porque le faltó la victualla por ser mal repartida y como por las diferencias de Sevilla, iban algunos animos mal satisfechos y el tuvo poco cuydado en sossegarlos nacieron murmuraciones y atrevimientos en el armada." Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. ix.

сар. iii.

*“ Teniente de General, Martin Mendez, al Capitan Francisco de Rojas y a Miguel de Rodas porque demàs que les tenia mala voluntad, con libertad reprehendian su govierno.” Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. ix. cap. iii.)

been appalling. The three persons highest in authority, and to whom he ought to have been able to look for support at such a crisis, had artfully, and in concert, fomented discontent, and were now ready to place themselves at its head. He was in the midst of those who disliked and undervalued him as a foreigner. There were but two of his own countrymen on board. De Rojas, he might anticipate, had made sure of his own crew of the Trinidad, and De Rodas, a man of varied service and high reputation, was likely to rally round him the confidence and enthusiasm of the spirited young cavaliers, volunteers in the expedition. Cabot had performed no memorable service for Spain. There now comes over us, too, almost with dismay, what before had scarcely excited attention. The Spaniards, Peter Martyr said, denied that Cabot had achieved what he pretended, even in the service of England. Such an insinuation could not have escaped the eager malevolence of those now around him. Here then was exercised, harshly and haughtily, over Castilians, an authority yielded, incautiously, to the adroit falsehoods of the English adventurer!

But Cabot belonged to that rare class of men whose powers unfold at trying moments. There seems to belong to command on the Ocean a peculiar energy, the offspring of incessant peril and of that very insolation which throws the brave man on himself, and leads him to muse habitually over all the exigences that may, on a sudden, task to the uttermost his fortitude or his intrepidity. Cabot saw that his only safety lay in extreme boldness. He was no longer, as with Sir Thomas Pert, a mere guide in the career of discovery. A high responsibility was on him. He knew that by a daring exercise of that rightful authority, to which habit lends a moral influence, men may be awed into passive instruments, who, but the moment before, meditated fierce mutiny. His determination was instantly made, and well justified that reputation for dauntless resolution borne back to Spain and to England from this expedition. He seized De Rojastook him out of his ship the Trinidad and placing him with Mendez and de

Rodas in a boat, ordered the three to be put on shore. The scene was one of deep humiliation ; and these men long afterwards are found dwelling with bitterness on the indignity, in their memorial to the Emperor. * The effect was instant. Discord vanished with this knot of conspirators. During the five years of service through which the expedition passed, full as they were of toil, privation, and peril, we hear not the slightest murmur; on the contrary, every thing indicates the most harmonious action and the most devoted fidelity.

Curiosity runs eagerly forward to learn the view taken by the Emperor of this high-handed measure. It can only be inferred from circumstances, for there is no account of any formal trial. That a thorough investigation took place cannot be doubted. Miguel de Rodas had been in the Victory, the ship of Magellan's squadron which effected the circumnavigation of the globe, had received from the Emperor a large pension for life, and a device for his Coat of Arms, commemorative of that achievement.t Martin Mendez had been in the same ship, and the device prepared for him is of a yet more flattering description. It was doubtless found, without going into the question of Portuguese bribery, that their accidental association with so memorable an enterprise, had given to them a reputation quite beyond their merit, and that these very marks of distinction, and a certain feeling as veterans, had led to an insolent assumption which rendered it indispensable for Cabot to vindicate the ascendancy due to his station and to his genius. By a Portuguese vessel the three mutineers gave notice of their situation, and complained in the bitterest terms of the conduct of Cabot. $ The Emperor sent orders to have them conveyed to Spain in order that justice might be done. Hernando Calderon and Jorge Barlo despatched by Cabot, afterwards reached Toledo, and made re

• “Con tanta afrenta suia.” Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. iii. cap. i.
† Herrera, Dec. iii. lib. iv. cap. xiv.

§ Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. iii. cap. i.

« AnteriorContinuar »