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NAME OF CABOT's SHIP-HOW FAR HE PROCEEDED ALONG THE COAST TO
THE SOUTHWARD-SUBSEQUENT VOYAGE OF 1498.
The name of the vessel which first touched the shores of the American continent is not without interest. The Matthew, of Bristol, had that proud distinction. A respectable writer* furnishes the following passage from an ancient Bristol manuscript in his possession :
“In the year 1497, the 24th June, on St John's day, was Newfoundland found by Bristol men, in a ship called The Matthew."
The question how far Cabot, on quitting the north, proceeded along the coast of the Continent, has been the subject of contradictory statements. By some his progress is limited to a latitude corresponding with that of the straits of Gibraltar, while others insist on carrying him to the extreme point of the Atlantic sea coast. We can hardly be at a loss to decide, when it is recollected that while there is no direct authority for the latter opinion, and it is one which would readily be adopted, in mistake, from the vague use, originally, of the title Florida, the former has the direct sanction of Peter Martyr (Dec. iii. cap. vi.).
“Tetenditque tantum ad merediem, littore sese incurvante, ut Herculei freti latitudinis fere gradus equarit ; ad occidentemque profectus tantum est ut Cubam Insulam a læva longitudine graduum pene parem habuerit.” “He was thereby brought so far into the South, by reason of the land bending so much to the south
“ The History and Antiquities of the City of Bristol, compiled from original Records and authentic Manuscripts in public offices or private hands. By William Barrett. Bristol, 1789,” p. 172. The same fact is stated in The History of Bristol by John Corry and the Rev. John Evans, vol. i. p. 213. (In King's Library, title in Catalogue Corry.)
ward, that it was there almost equal in latitude with the sea Fretum Herculeum having the North Pole elevate in a manner in the same degree. He sailed likewise in this tract so far towards the West, that he had the Island of Cuba on his left hand in manner, in the same degree of longitude.” (Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 9.)
Gomara, more definitely but perhaps only determining by conjecture the circumstantial statement of Peter Martyr, names, as has been seen, 38°. Hakluyt, in the dedication of his second volume to Sir Robert Cecil, boasts of the universal acknowledgement, even by foreigners, “that all that mighty tract of land, from 67 degrees northward, to the latitude almost of Florida, was first discovered out of England, by the commandment of King Henry VII. ;” and again, in a marginal note of his third volume (p. 9), he states that Cabot discovered “the northern parts of that land, and from thence as far almost as Florida."
Peter Martyr informs us that a failure of provisions at this point compelled an abandonment of the further pursuit of the coast, and a return to England.
It has been preferred to settle the question before quitting the first voyage, because the progress to the southward may have taken place on that occasion, as a discovery of both “ Londe and Isles” is recited in the second patent. Should a further development of the subject lead to an opinion that this incident, mentioned first by Peter Martyr, belongs to another voyage which that writer more probably had in view, there will be no difficulty in adjusting it hereafter to its proper place. *
One piece of evidence has lately been brought to light from which it may be inferred that Cabot returned to England immediately after the discovery of the 24th June, 1497. In the account of the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VII., is the following entry :-“10th August, 1407. To hym that found the New Isle, 102."
The document referred to, which forms one of the Additional MSS. in the British Museum, is in the hand-writing of Craven Orde, Esq., formerly one of the Secondaries of the office of the King's Remembrancer of the Court of Exchequer, and has recently been given to the public by Harris Nicolas, Esq., in his valuable Excerpta Historica. Mr N. remarks, “The originals, doubtless, form part of the muniments of the King': Remembrancer's Office, and though the great exertions which have been made to collate these extracts with them received every assistance from the King's Remembrancer and the other officers, they failed, because these
The interesting inquiry now arises as to subsequent voyages, made after the death of John Cabot which is supposed to have taken place shortly after the date of the second patent of 3rd February, 1498.
It cannot be supposed, for a moment, that Sebastian Cabot would lightly abandon what had been so hardly won. He was named in the original patent; and a right under the discovery vested in him, aside from his claim as the son of John Cabot. A large sum had been expended on the first voyage, and was now represented solely by the title to the newly discovered region. He must have been strangely insensible to his interests, as well as suddenly deficient in enterprise, to turn away, without further effort, from a pursuit which had thus far been crowned with the most flattering success.
The first item of evidence on the subject, is that supplied by Stow. Under the year 1498, and in the Mayoralty of William Purchas, there occurs, in the Annals, the following statement :
“ This yeere, one Sebastian Gaboto, a Genoas sonne, borne in Bristow, professing himselfe to be expert in knowledge of the circuit of the world and islands of the same, as by his charts and other reasonable demonstrations he shewed, caused the King to man, and victuall a ship at Bristow to search for an island, which he knew to be replenished with rich commodities : in the ship divers merchants of London adventured small stocks, and in the company of this ship, sailed also out of Bristow, three or foure small shippes fraught with sleight and grosse wares, as coarse cloth, caps, laces, points, and such other."
It has already been proved, in another place, that this was the statement made by Stow to Hakluyt, and that the substi
MSS. are presumed to be in some of the numerous bags that are lying unarranged in Westminster Hall, an examination of which could only be effected at a sacrifice of time and expense, which no private individual can incur.” Since the publication, it has been ascertained that a portion of what is supposed to be the original is in the possession of Sir Thomas Phillips, having been purchased by him at a sale of the effects of Mr Orde. Unfortunately, it does not go further back than the
tution, by the latter, of the name of John Cabot took place afterwards, at two successive stages of alteration. The fact clearly appeared, by a reference to Hakluyt's earlier volume of 1582, and by the name of Sebastian Cabot, which yet lingers incautiously in the enlarged work at the head of Stow's communication, even after a change in the body of it. We have then before us, here, the honest result of Stow's researches.
There can be no mistake as to the period to which he would refer this incident; for the mayoralty of Purchas, is mentioned in the communication to Hakluyt (vol. iii. p. 9). When, too, under the year 1502, he speaks of the exhibition of savages, reference is made to what he had before stated as occurring in the time of that Mayor. Speed (747) so understands him and Purchas (Pilgrims, vol. iii. p. 808).
It appears, by the list of these functionaries found in the various Chroniclers, that the mayoralty of Purchas extended from 28 October, 1497 to 28 October, 1498. Unless then we suppose a mistake to have been committed, the voyage alluded to was subsequent to that of the original discovery.
A matter so simple as this has not escaped mis-statement. Thus, in MʼPherson's Annals of Commerce (vol. ii. p. 13, note), it is said, “We may depend on the contemporary testimony of Alderman Fabyan, who says that he sailed in the beginning of May in the mayoralty of John Tate, that is 1497, but returned in the subsequent mayoralty of William Purchas." Here is as much error as could be condensed into one sentence. Fabyan does not place the expedition in the mayoralty of Tate, but in that of Purchas, and we are told, that no tidings were heard of the expedition during that Mayor's time, viz. as late as October, 1498. It is, indeed, a singular fact that writers who on most topics are dull, common-place, and safe—who might be trusted, one would think, in poetry itself, without peril to their matter-of-fact character
-instantly become imaginative on touching any part of Cabot's history.
In connexion with the statement of Stow, it may be mentioned that both Peter Martyr and the person, said to be Galeatius Butrigarius, who held the conversation with Cabot, at Seville, speak of a voyage from England subsequent to the father's death. Peter Martyr, in the passage usually cited on the subject, says nothing of dates, but writing afterwards in 1524, (Decade vii. cap. ii.) he refers to Cabot's voyage, as having taken place “twenty-six years since,” that is, in 1498. To these statements, another is to be added, though it increases, perhaps, rather the number than the weight of authorities.
The first article in the third volume of Ramusio is a Summary of The Spanish Discoveries in the New World, drawn professedly from Peter Martyr, and entitled “ Sommario della Historia dell' Indie Occidentali cavato dalli libri scritti dal Sig. Don Pietro Martire.” It was first published anonymously, at Venice, in a separate form, in the year 1543,* and is quite unworthy of the place which it now occupies. The arrangement of Peter Martyr is entirely disregarded, and no reference is given to the original, by which any of the statements may be verified or disproved. Under the pretended sanction, too, of Peter Martyr, the writer has introduced many unfounded, and even absurd, assertions of his own. Thus the statement given in the original of the manner in which the bears catch fish, and which is confirmed by late accounts,t this writer has spun outf into a minute and ridiculous description. It is here stated that Cabot reached only 55°, an assertion which the Biographie Universelle (art. Cabot) copies and cites as from Peter Martyr, when there is nothing of the kind in the original. In repeating the expression of Peter Martyr, about the death of the father, this writer says—56 after whose death, finding himself very rich and of great ambition,
Haym’s “Bibliotheca Italiana o sia notizia de Libro rari Italiani,” p. 131. # See Cartwright's Labrador.
† Ramusio, tom. iii. fol. 35, in Index “Bacalai," “ Sebastiano Gabotto," and " orso."