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CABOT'S RESIDENCE IN THE LA PLATA-SUBJECTION OF REMOTE TRIBES
-CLAIMS OF SPAIN RESTED ON THIS EXPEDITION-TREATY WITH THE GUARANIS-DETAILED REPORT TO THE EMPEROR AS TO THE PRODUCTIONS, ETC. OF THE COUNTRY-MISCONDUCT OF THE FOLLOWERS OF GARCIA-LEADS TO A GENERAL ATTACK FROM THE NATIVES-RETURN
Cabot's residence in the La Plata, though measured tediously by hope deferred, and finally blasted, was not passed inactively. The small force which remained, after one of the vessels had been despatched to Europe, might be supposed insufficient to enable him to maintain his position ; yet it is certain that his operations were of a very bold and adventurous character. He seems to have pushed his researches as far as could be done without quitting the waters which enabled him to be promptly advised of the arrival of the expected reinforcement.
Of these operations we are left to gather the extent rather from circumstances than any direct information afforded by the Spanish historians. In a Memoir prepared by the Court of Spain, to resist the pretensions of Portugal in this quarter, it is made the leading argument, after an enumeration of a vast number of tribes, that Sebastian Cabot erected forts in the country, administered justice there in civil and criminal cases, and reduced all these nations under the obedience of the Emperor. *
It is impossible not to be struck by the reflection which
• Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. viii. cap. xi. “Que Sebastian Gaboto avia edificado en aquellas tierras fortalezas y exercitado justicia civil y criminal y traido a la obediencia Real todas las sobredichas generaciones.”
this passage suggests, as to what may almost be termed the ubiquity of this adventurous and indefatigable seaman in the new world.
While England has rested her claim at one extremity of it, and Spain at the other, on the personal agency of the same Native of Bristol, we have an assurance that he was found at the intermediate point, with a party of Englishmen, on the first visit of the individual whose name now overspreads the whole.
Some of the tribes referred to are named in the following passage of Herrera
“The Guaranis occupy the islands. The principal națions are the Charruas and the Quirondis. On a river on the left-hand are the Carcaras, and yet further up the Trimbus, the Curundas and Camis. Yet higher are the Quilbasas, Calchines and Chanas, who are savages. After these come the Mecoretas and the Mepenes, who continue for an extent of 100 leagues. Beyond these are twenty-seven nations of different appellations, and languages and customs almost dissimilar, the names of which are omitted for fear of being tedious (“Que por no dar molestia se dexan de nombrar"* ).
The incursion of the Guaranis into Peru, has been adverted to. On their return, some of the fierce invaders lingered on the way and permanently occupied the mountains, whence they annoyed the Charcas, their mode of warfare being to make night attacks, and after sweeping every thing before them to retire to their fastnesses quite secure from pursuit. The Nation subjected to these vexatious attacks is found to occupy the same position on the modern maps.
As no supplies were received from Spain, subsistence must have been drawn from the labours of the party. Experiments were made on the fertility of the soil and the results carefully noted.f Cabot's final report to the Emperor described, with great' minuteness, the various productions of that region, and spoke also of the wonderful increase of the hogs, horses, &c. brought out from Spain.} This Memoir would be, even at the present day, highly curious and interesting.
* Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. viii. cap. xi.
It is, doubtless, preserved in Spain, and there was probably a copy of it amongst the papers left with Worthington.
In the midst of his labours the same evil spirit which had pursued him to the La Plata was preparing a final blow. The Portuguese, Diego Garcia, would seem to have quitted the country immediately, with the specimens he had obtained of the precious metals, but he left behind a party of his followers. These men were guilty of some act which roused the wildest resentment of the Guaranis, with whom Cabot had made a treaty. It is expressly declared that the latter had no concern with the cause of exasperation,* but the vengeance of this fierce and sanguinary people made no distinction, and it was determined to sacrifice every white man in the country. Secret meetings were held, and a plan of action deliberately concerted,
A little before day-break the whole nation burst upon the feeble garrison of Santus Spiritus. It was carried, and the other position, at St Salvador, furiously assaulted. We have no particulars, but know that Cabot must have repelled the shock, for he was enabled to prepare for sea and to put on board the requisite supplies. This done, he quitted the illomnened region.
Amongst the wild tales which have passed into traditions of the La Plata, one would represent Cabot to have fallen in the course of the sanguinary conflicts with the natives. This misconception is embodied in the “Argentina y Conquista Del Rio de la Plata," a poem on its early history, written by Don Martin de el Barco, and which finds a place in the Historiadores Primitivos (vol. iii.)
“La muerte, pues, de aqueste ia sabida
* Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. viii. cap. xi. “Por algunas occasiones que dieron los soldados que fueron con Diego Garcia en que Sebastian Gaboto ne tuvo culpa.”
Del Guarani, dejando fabricada
• Another story, but too obviously false to screen the writer from the charge of fabrication, is found in Techo, and embellished by Charlevoix (Histoire du Paraguay, Tom. I. p. 29). It represents Cabot to have left behind a force of one hundred and twenty men, under the command of Nuno de Lara; and a series of romantic adventures is framed out of the attachment of a savage chieftain to the wife of Hurtado, one of the principal officers of the garrison!
EMPLOYMENT OF CABOT AFTER HIS RETURN-RESUMES HIS FUNCTIONS AS
PILOT-MAJOR-MAKES SEVERAL VOYAGES-HIS HIGH REPUTATIONVISIT OF A LEARNED ITALIAN-CABOT'S ALLUSION TO COLUMBUS.
Cabot must now, in 1531, have begun to feel the influence of advancing years, of which thirty-five had passed since the date of that patent from Henry VII. under which he made the great discovery in the north. The interval had been replete with toil, anxiety and peril. Yet though he resumed, as we shall see, the functions of Pilot-Major, an unbroken spirit of enterprise drew him afterwards, repeatedly, on the Ocean. We turn now to the only evidence which remains, scanty as it is, of the occupations of this part of his life.
Enough has been already said of the circumstances which prove that the defence submitted to the Emperor must have been completely successful. The Conversation in Ramusio, heretofore so often referred to, now offers its testimony as to the general opinion in Spain, of his conduct during the eventful period through which he has just been conducted.
The reputation brought from the La Plata could not have been equivocal, for in the scenes through which Cabot had passed, the most latent particle of fear or indecision must have started fatally into notice. The survivors of the expedition had seen Danger assume before him every terrifying form. In command of Spaniards he stood alone—an obnoxious stranger-in a fierce mutiny headed by brave and popular Spanish officers. He had been seen amidst sanguinary encounters, hand to hand, with hordes of ferocious savages, and extricating himself, on one occasion, only by a slaughter of more than three times the number of his own force. And finally,