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passe with him in the same Shippes to the seid Londe or isles, withoute anye impedymente, lett or perturbance of any of our officers or ministres or subjects whatsoever they be by theym to the seyd John, his Deputie, or Deputies, and all other our seid subjects or any of them passinge with the seyd John in the said Shippes to the seid Londe or Iles to be doon, or suffer to be doon or attempted. Geving in commaundement to all and every our officers, ministres and subjects seying or herying theis our Lettres Patents, without any ferther commaundement by Us to theym or any of theym to be geven to perfourme and socour the said John, his Deputie and all our said Subjects so passyng with hym according to the tenor of this our Lettres Patentis. Any Statute, Acte or Ordennance to the contrarye made or to be made in any wise notwithstanding."

Agreeably to the above, preparations were made to carry out the king's commission; but from some cause, which baffles every attempt at elucidation, when about to sail, John Cabot was prevented from taking command of the expedition. Sebastian, therefore, although scarcely twenty-three years of age, was promoted to this important post, and sailed in command of two ships, in the summer of 1498. And here it may be as well to say a few words, as to the early life of the young man who was entrusted with the chief command on this occasion. According to Richard Eden, the author of the “ Decades of the New World,” a black letter volume, published in 1555, the particular friend of Cabot, and from whose lips he says he received it, Sebastian was born at Bristol, but being carried by his father to Venice, when very young, he was thought to have been a native of that city.

Though this statement is in opposition to the views of numberless writers, both ancient and modern, yet, famous as Eden is for great regard to truth, besides enjoying, as he did, the close friendship of Cabot, the probability is greatly in favour of this version; and, indeed, the author of the “ Memoir” declares, that Eden “has far stronger claims to consideration as an author, and to the grateful recollection of his countrymen, than Hakluyt,”whom he preceded by half a century.

We may, therefore, reasonably suppose, that the talents of Sebastian for maritime pursuits, which at a future period rendered him the most renowned seaman of the age, had already begun to develope themselves, when we find him, thus early in life, entrusted with the command of an expedition which demanded experience of no ordinary character.

The accounts preserved of this important voyage are exceedingly meagre, and, as usual, very conflicting. Peter Martyr d'Angleria, the historian of the New World, in the sixth chapter of his third Decade, tells us that Cabot fitted out two ships at his own expense, and, with three hundred followers, directed his course so far towards the North Pole, that, even in the month of July, he found great heaps of ice swimming in the sea, and almost continual daylight. “Thus, observing such masses of ice before him, he was compelled to turn his sails, and follow the west ; and, coasting still by the shore, was brought so far into the south, by reason of the land bending much to the southward, that it was there almost equal in latitude with the sea called Fretum Herculeum. He sailed to the west till he had the island of Cuba on his left hand, almost in the same longitude. As he passed along those coasts, called by him Baccalaos, he affirmed that he found the same current of the waters towards the west which the Spaniards met with in the southern navigations, with the single difference that they flowed more gently."

“ Cabot named these lands Baccalaos, because in the seas thereabout he found such an immense multitude of large fish like tunnies, called Baccalaos by the natives, that they actually impeded the sailing of his ships. He found also the inhabitants of these regions covered with beasts' skins, yet not without the use of reason. He also relates that there are plenty of bears in these parts, which feed upon fish. It is the practice of these animals to throw themselves into the midst of the shoals of fish, each seizing his prey, to bury their claws in the scales, drag them to land, and there devour them. On this account he says that these bears meddle little with men."4

The question may fairly be asked,- to what degree of northern latitude did Cabot attain in this voyage, and what were its subsequent results ? Here again we have conflicting statements. In the first volume of his valuable collection of voyages, Ramusio has inserted a conversation, at which he was present, which took place at the romantic residence of the Italian poet Hieronimus Fracastoro, at Caphi, near Verona, in which the subject of a northern passage to the east was discussed; and one of the company present, a gentlemen, whose name, from motives of delicacy, Ramusio conceals, gave them an account of an interview which he had had with Sebastian Cabot, in the city of Seville, some years previously. He described to them the cordial reception which Cabot had given him, on learning his desire for information on this topic, and then proceeded to relate to them, as nearly as he could remember, what Cabot had told him with

4 Edin. Cab. Lib. v. ix. p. 27.

regard to his voyage to the north in 1498. We here insert the translation, as given by Hakluyt, of that part of the conversation which gives a sketch of that voyage, and its results :

“When my father departed from Venice many yeeres since to dwell in England, to follow the trade of Marchandises, hee took mee with him to the citie of London, while I was very yong, yet having neverthelesse some knowledge of letters of humanitie, and of the sphere. And when my father died in that time, when newes were brought that Don Christopher Colonus Genoese had discovered the coasts of India, whereof was great talke in all the court of king Henry the Seventh, who then raigned, insomuch that all men with great admiration affirmed it to be a thing more divine than humane, to saile by the West into the East, where spices do

growe, by a way that was neuer knowen before, by this fame and report, there increased in my heart a great flame of desire to attempt some notable thing. And understanding, by reason of the sphere, that if I should saile by way of the North-west, I should by a shorter tract come into India, I thereupon caused the king to be advertised of my device, who immediately commanded two caravels to bee furnished with all things appertaining to the voyage, which was as farre as I remember in the yeere 1496, in the beginning of sommer. I began therefore to saile toward the North-west, not thinking to finde any other land than that of Cathay, and from thence to turn toward India ; but after certaine dayes I found that the land ranne towards the North, which was to mee a great displeasure. Neverthelesse, sayling along by the coast to see if I coulde finde any gulfe that turned, I found the lande still continent to the 56 degree under our pole. And seeing that there the coast turned toward the East, despairing to finde the passage, I turned backe againe, and sailed downe by the coast of that land toward the equinoctiall (ever with intent to finde the said passage to India,) and came to that part of this firme lande which is nowe called Florida, where my victuals failing, I departed from thence and returned into England, where I found great tumults among the people, and preparation for warres in Scotland: by reason whereof there was no more consideration had to this voyage.

5 Ramusio is here so badly translated, that it appears as if Cabot had forgotten the date of his own celebrated voyage. It should be “I communicated my project to his majesty the king, who highly approved of it, and provided me with two ships, well fitted up. This happened in 1496, at the beginning of summer.”

In the above extract it will be perceived that 56° is the northern limit assigned to the voyage, but we must very carefully observe that the conversation, at which Ramusio was present, took place several years after the interview between Cabot and the narrator; besides which we have still further the chance of forgetfulness by Ramusio, who confesses to a bad memory. Now, in two other places, in his third volume, Ramusio states the latitude reached in the first, citing a letter from Cabot, whose correspondent and friend he had intermediately become, he states it to be 67° 30"; but in the second, speaking generally of the northern regions, he drops the half degree, and calls it 67 degrees.

Another authority, Francis Lopez de Gomara, the Spanish historian of the West Indies, says

“Sebastian Cabot was the fyrst that browght any knowleage of this lande.

For beinge in Englande in the dayes of Kyng Henry the Seventh,

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