« AnteriorContinuar »
the Venetian ambassador that he represented it as different in different places, it may be inferred that he did not treat it as absolutely regulated by mere distance from a particular me. ridian. There is another satisfactory reason for believing that he could not have placed it on any narrow ground. The Seamen brought up in his school, and sailing under his instruc. tions, were particularly attentive to note the variation. Thus Stephen Burrough reports to us, (Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 290, &c.) within a short space, the degrees of it at three different points; and, where this was habitually done, an error of the great nautical Oracle—if we suppose one to have cheated his long experience and profound observation--would have been speedily detected and exposed.
MISTAKE OF PURCHAS, PINKERTON, DR HENRY IN HIS HISTORY OF GREAT
BRITAIN, CAMPBELL IN THE LIVES OF THE ADMIRALS, AND OTHER WRITERS, AS TO THE KNIGHTING" OF JOHN OR SEBASTIAN CABOT.
The present may be a fit occasion to notice an absurd misconception on the part of many authors of reputation, some of whom represent Sebastian Cabot to have received the honour of knighthood, while others confer it on the father.
Purchas (vol. iv. p. 1812), in his - English just Title to Virginia,” refers to a Portrait of Sebastian Cabot which he had seen hung up in the King's Palace at Whitehall with this inscription; Effigies Seb. Caboti Angli, filii Joannis Caboti militis aurati, &c.” Here was a fair opening for controversy. Does the description “militis aurati” apply to the father or to the son? The same difficulty occurs, with a curious coincidence in the epithets, as that which Quinctilian (Inst. Orat. lib. vii. cap. 9) mentions, with regard to the Will of a Roman, who directed that there should be put up “statuam auream hastam tenentem,” and the puzzle was whether the statue or the spear was of gold. After the unpardonable blunders which it has been necessary to expose, we may look with some complacency on the pursuit of this perplexing matter.
Purchas assumes that the words apply to the son, and accordingly we have “ Sir Sebastian Cabot” running through his volumes. In a copy of verses addressed to “his friend Captain John Smith," and prefixed to the account of Virginia by the latter, Purchas exclaims
“Hail, Sir Sebastian! England's Northern Pole,
Virginia's finder!” and in a marginal note it is added, “ America, named of Ame
ricus Vesputius which discovered less than Colon or Sir Sebastian Cabot, and the Continent later. Colon first found the Isles 1492, the Continent 1498, above a year after Cabot had done it. He was set forth by Henry VII., and after by Henry VIII. knighted, and made Grand Pilot of England by Edward VI.” Captain Smith himself repeats all this" Sebastian Cabot discovered much more than these all, for he sailed to about 40° South of the line, and to 67° towards the North, for which King Henry VIII. knighted him and made him Grand Pilot of England.” In the general Index to Pinkerton's Collection of Voyages and Travels, the eye is caught, under the title Cabot, with the alluring reference “ anecdotes of,” and on turning to the place (vol. xiii. p. 4), the same statements are found. Now the difficulties are insurmountable as to Sebastian Cabot. In the last renewal of his pension in the reign of Mary (Rymer, vol. xv. p. 427 and 466), he is styled “Armiger,” which shows that he had not, even up to that period, been knighted. In the Cotton MSS. (Claudius, C. iii.) is a paper, giving the names and arms of such as have been advanced to the order of knighthood in the reigns of Henry VII., Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary and Elizabeth,” in which no notice is taken of him.
The point being thus clear with regard to the son, other writers have assumed as a matter of course, that the distinction must have been conferred on John Cabot. Accordingly, Campbell (Lives of the Admirals, art. Sir John Cabot) says of the father, “ he then returned with a good cargo and three savages on board to England, where it seems he was knighted for this exploit, since, on the map of his discoveries drawn by his son Sebastian, and cut by Clement Adams, which hung in the Privy Gallery at Whitehall, there was this inscription under the author's picture-Efigies Seb. Caboti Angli filii Io. Caboti Venetiani Militis aurati.” Thus Campbell derives his fact from Purchas, but draws a different inference from that writer. According to him, too, the knighting must have been, not by Henry VIII. as Purchas and Captain Smith have it, for there is reason to believe that the senior Cabot
died before the commencement of that reign, but by Henry VII., particularly as it took place on Cabot's return, and the monarch last named lived thirteen years after the “exploit.” Campbell, therefore, has a “ Memoir of Sir John Cabot,” and speaks again, with enthusiasm, of that “ celebrated Venetian, Sir John Cabot."
This version has been the more generally adopted, and amongst the rest by Dr Henry (History of Great Britain, vol. vi. p. 618), who informs us, on the authority of Campbell, that “ John Cabot was graciously received and knighted on his return.” The same statement is made in the Biographia Britannica, &c.
To the utter confusion of all these grave authorities, a moment's consideration will show, that the words relied on do in themselves prove that knighthood had not been conferred. It is scarcely necessary to follow up this suggestion, by stating that in reference to one who had received that honour, they would have been not “ Militis aurati,” but “ Equitis aurati." Though the term miles is sometimes applied, in old documents, even to Peers, yet, as a popular designation, the language of the inscription negatives the idea of knighthood. In the very works immediately connected with the subject of the present volume, the appropriate phrase perpetually oc
Thus “ Eques auratus” is used to designate Sir Humphrey Gilbert (Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 137), Sir Hugh Willoughby (ib. p. 142), Sir Martin Frobisher (ib. p. 142), Sir Francis Drake (ib. p. 143). In the dedication of Lok's translation of Peter Martyr, it is in like manner used, and we see it, at this moment, on the “ effigies” of Sir Walter Raleigh prefixed to the first edition of his History of the World. It will probably be deemed very superfluous to refer to Selden's Titles of Honour (p. 830), for a confirmation of what has been stated.
The weight of censure must fall on Purchas, who was originally guilty of the blunder. The others assumed the fact of the knighting, and only exercised their ingenuity in deciding whether the honour was conferred on the Father or the Son.
STAGNATION OF TRADE IN ENGLAND-CABOT CONSULTED BY THE MER
CHANTS-URGES THE ENTERPRISE WHICH RESULTED IN THE TRADE TO
RUSSIA PRELIMINARY DIFFICULTIES-STRUGGLE WITH THE STILYARD
- THAT MONOPOLY BROKEN DOWN-EARNESTNESS OF EDWARD VI. ON
THE SUBJECT-HIS MUNIFICENT DONATION TO CABOT AFTER THE RE
SULT WAS DECLARED.
It is only from detached notes, such as those already referred to, and which meet the eye as it were by accident, that we can now form an idea of the diffusive nature of Cabot's services. One Great Enterprise, however, stands by itself, and was destined to exercise an important influence on the commerce and naval greatness of England.
An opportunity was afforded to Cabot of putting in execution a plan "which he long before had had in his mind,”* by its happening, incidentally, to fall in with the purposes of the London merchants. The period was one of great commercial stagnation in England.
“Our merchants perceived the commodities and wares of England to be in small request about us and near unto us, and that those merchandises which strangers, in the time and memory of our ancestors, did earnestly seek and desire, were now neglected and the price thereof abated, although they be carried to their own parts.”+
In this season of despondency Cabot was consulted, and the suggestions which he made were adepted:
“Sebastian Caboto, a man in those days very renowned, happening to be in London, they began first of all to deal and consult diligently with him, and after much search and conference together, it was at last concluded, that three ships should be prepared and furnished out for the search and discovery of the northern
• Eden's Decades, fol. 256.