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ther occasion to the same document, says, “ He was born at Venice, and serving Henry VII., Henry VIII., and Edward VI., was accounted English. Galpano says, he was born at Bristol.” By Galpano, he means the Portuguese writer Galvano, or Galvam, in whose work, translated by Hakluyt, that statement is made (p. 66), as it is also by Herrera (Dec. i. lib. ix. cap. 13), whom Purchas himself quotes (vol. iv. p. 177 to that point.
In defiance of the contemporary “Effigies,” and of these foreign authorities, most modern writers, Hume, Forster, Charlevoid, &c. have been led astray. The Quarterly Review (vol. xvi. p. 154, note) informs us that Henry VII. engaged 6 the Cabots of Venice in the discovery of Newfoundland;" and Mr Barrow, in his “Chronological History of Voyages, &c.” (p. 36–7), speaks of the credit due to England, for having “so wisely and honourably enrolled this deserving foreigner in the list of her citizens."
Now it will scarcely be credited, that we have in Eden, a positive statement on the subject, from the lips of Sebastian Cabot himself. The following marginal note will be found at fol. 255—6SEBASTIAN CABOTE TOULD ME that he was borne in Brystowe, and that at iiii. yeare ould he was carried with his father to Venice, and so returned agayne into Eng. land with his father after certayne years, whereby he was thought to have been born in Venice.” Thus, then, was the question conclusively settled 275 years ago! It is needless to repeat what has been already said, in another place, as to the slight credit due to the report of the conversation relied on by Harris, Pinkerton, and the rest, for there is, in fact, no discrepance to be reconciled. Cabot there states the circumstances which more immediately preceded the commission from Henry VII.; and the occasion did not lead to any detail of his own earlier history. Should Sir Edward Parry be recalled to embark on a new voyage of discovery, he might very naturally advert, hereafter, to the period of his return, and would scarcely deem it necessary to add that he had been
in the country before. For the future, then, it is to be hoped that no perverse efforts will be made to obscure the claim of England to this Great Seaman. He owed to her his birth, and the language and associations of childhood. He returned thither while yet a boy (" pene infans” is the expression of Peter Martyr), and grew up there to manhood, when he was commissioned to go in quest of new regions, wherein he set up the banner" of England. Under this banner, he was the first European who reached the shores of the American Continent. He ended, as he had begun, his career in the service of his native country, infusing into her Marine a spirit of lofty enterprise-a high moral tone-a system of mild, but inflexible discipline, of which the results were, not long after, so conspicuously displayed. Finally, he is seen to open new sources of commerce, of which the influence may be distinctly traced on her present greatness and prosperity. Surely it is as absurd as it is unnatural, to deny to such a man the claim which he seems to have anxiously preferred, and which has been placed on record under his direct sanction.
THE PATENTS OF 5TH MARCH, 1496, AND 3RD FEBRUARY, 1498.
Before proceeding to a close examination of the documents which establish the real history of these voyages, it may be well to advert to the reckless manner in which facts have been made to yield to any hypothesis which a short-sighted view has suggested as indispensable.
The following passage is found in Harris' Voyages (ed. of 1744—8, vol. ii. p. 190), and in Pinkerton's Collection (vol. xii. p. 158).
“But the year before that patent was granted, viz. in 1494, John Cabot, with his son Sebastian, had sailed from Bristol upon discovery, and had actually seen the Continent of Newfoundland, to which they gave the name of Prima Vista, or first seen. And on the 24th June, in the same year, he went ashore on an Island which, because it was discovered on that day, he called St John's ; and of this Island he reported, very truly, that the soil was barren, that it yielded little, and that the people wear bearskin clothes, and were armed with bows, arrows, pikes, darts, wooden clubs, and slings; but that the coast abounded with fish, and upon this report of his, the before-mentioned patent (of 5th March 1495) was granted.”
Mr Barrow also says (p. 32),
“There is no possible way of reconciling the various accounts collected by Hakluyt, and which amount to no less a number than six, but by supposing John Cabot to have made one voyage, at least, previous to the date of the patent, and some time between that and the date of the return of Columbus, either in 1494 or 1495."
It must by this time be apparent, that the hypothesis thus started, is not only uncalled for, but would contradict every authentic account which has come down to us.
It is altogether irreconcilable with that very document which stands foremost of the “ six," on the pages of Hakluyt —the extract from the map cut by Clement Adams, and hung up in the Privy Gallery-for it is there declared expressly,
that at five o'clock in the morning, of the 24th June, 1497, was discovered that land, which no man before that time had attempted to approach (“ quam nullus prius adire ausus fuit”). What possible motive can be imagined, on the part of Cabot, for disguising the fact of a discovery made so long before? The supposition is as absurd, as it is gratuitous. How, again, does it agree with the statement of Sebastian Cabot, that on the voyage made under the royal authority, he was surprised by the sight of land, “not thinking to find any other land than that of Cathay ?” This is one of the “six" accounts which it is proposed to reconcile by assuming a discovery of the same region three years before !
The first patent bears date the 5th March, in the eleventh year of the reign of Henry VII. It is found in Rymer (Federa, vol. xii. p. 595), who correctly refers it to 5th March, 1496, the computation of this monarch's reign being from August, 1485. Hakluyt states it to be of 1495 (vol. ij. p. 5), looking, as we may infer, not to the Historical, but to the Legal or Civil year, which commenced, prior to 1752, on the 25th March.
The patent is in favour of John Cabot and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sancius; and authorises them, their heirs, or deputies, to 6 sail to all parts, countries, and seas of the East, of the West, and of the North, under our banners and ensigns, with five ships of what burthen or quantity soever they be, and as many mariners or men as they will have with them in the said ships, upon their own proper costs and charges, to seek out, discover, and find whatsoever isles, countries, regions, or provinces of the heathen and infidels, whatsoever they be, and in what part of the world soever they be, which before this time have been unknown to all Christians.” It is plain, that a previous discovery, so far from being assigned as the ground for the patent, as Harris, Pinkerton, &c. assert, is negatived by its very terms. The patent would be inapplicable to any region previously visited by either of the Cabots, and confer no right. Assuming, what is obvi
ously absurd, that the discovery could have been made without becoming at once universally known, yet the patentees must have been aware that they exposed themselves, at any moment when the fact should come out, to have the grant vacated on the ground of a deceptive concealment.
The patentees are authorised to set up the Royal banner, “in every village, town, castle, isle, or main land, by them newly found,” and to subdue, occupy, and possess all such regions, and to exercise jurisdiction over them in the name of the King of England. One-fifth of the clear profit of the enterprise is reserved to the King, and it is stipulated that the vessels shall return to the port of Bristol. The privilege of exclusive resort and traffic is secured to the patentees.
The Second Patent is dated the third of February, in the thirteenth year of the reign of Henry VII., corresponding with third February 1498. The only evidence heretofore published on the subject, is contained in a brief memorandum found in Hakluyt (vol. iii. p. 6), who, we are persuaded, never saw the original. The person, also, who gave him the information of its existence, probably did not go beyond a list of the titles of instruments of that description kept for convenient reference. The memorandum of Hakluyt is as follows:
6 The King, upon the third day of February, in the thirteenth year of his reign, gave license to John Caboto to take six English ships in any haven or havens of the realm of England, being of the burden of two hundred tons or under, with all necessary furniture, and to take also into the said ships, all such masters, mariners and subjects of the King as willingly would go with him," &c.
Such being the whole of the information supplied, it is no wonder, that the most erroneous conjectures have been started.
Dr Robertson (History of America, book ix.) adopts the dates of Hakluyt. “This Commission (the first) was granted on March 5th, 1495, in less than two years after the return of Columbus from America. But Cabot (for that is the name he assumed in England, and by which he is best known) did not