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for the first time making it clear that there were two voyages of discovery, and so bringing order out of the contradictory evidence at his command. But Biddle's hero is Sebastian, not John: he had not seen the letters of Pasqualigo and the despatches of Soncino and Ayala and De Puebla. For this is what has happened. Almost all our knowledge of the Cabot voyages was based upon the statements of Sebastian himself. These were the fabric out of which was fashioned his world-wide repute. And nearly four hundred years elapsed before there were brought to light these indisputable documents, on the evidence of which Sebastian is convicted of falsehood and unfilial conduct, and is thrown down from the pedestal which he had usurped from his father.
To understand this part of our story we must gather up the facts about Sebastian Cabot's life which are not in dispute. Whether or not he sailed with his father in the famous expedition of 1497, he was living at Bristol in these twelve months before the second voyage, when the admiral was dressing in silks and being run after by the English folks in a fashion that made Pasqualigo sneer. At this time Sebastian must have been at least twentytwo years of age. The ensuing years were spent in the study of navigation and cartography, and he was paid a gratification of 20s. for a map of Gascony and Guyenne for the use of the expedition of Spain and England against the south of France in 1512, and in some capacity or other he accompanied the expedition. Probably his fame had gone beyond the bounds of England: in Spain, it is certain, the name of Cabot the discoverer of the new found land
would be familiar, and it may well be that Sebastian was sought after; at any rate, in October of this year he entered the service of King Ferdinand, who gave him a post as naval captain, with a salary of 50,000 maravedis. In June 1515 he was paid a further allowance of 10,000 more; two months later he received nine months' arrears of pay as Capitan de Mar; and by the end of the year he was appointed pilot to his majesty. His wife and home were still in England as late as the autumn of 1512, when he removed his household to Seville: it included a daughter, Elizabeth, who in 1516 received a small legacy from her godfather, a chaplain in London. Whether her mother was the Spanish Catalina Medrano mentioned as Sebastian's wife in later documents, we do not know. He may have made a second marriage after settling in Spain. Curiously, among the meagre information we have of Sebastian's career is the testimony of several witnesses that Catalina was a high-spirited woman who kept her husband "under the thumb," and instigated him in some of his ill-doings.
Sebastian Cabot reached the height of his career in February 1518, when Charles V. made him pilot-major. It was about this time that he made the acquaintance of Peter Martyr, of which we are to hear more. Meanwhile, at the moment of his success, when he was enjoying the confidence of his sovereign and possessed of all the secrets of his adopted country, he was carrying on an intrigue with Venice to transfer his services and his knowledge to the Republic. Of this there can be no doubt. For centuries his treachery was hid, but at last the archives of Venice gave up the despatches of Contarini, the Venetian ambas
sador to Spain, in which the whole story is laid bare. Cabot's overtures to the Council of Ten were made through a Ragusian adventurer: we can trace in Contarini's despatches the whole course of the negotiations, down to the concoction of a plan to get leave for Cabot to visit Venice on the plea that his immediate presence there was demanded in connection with a claim arising out of his mother's estate and dowry. Sebastian's statement to the ambassador was that, when in England three years previously, he was offered high terms by Cardinal Wolsey if he would sail with an armada on a voyage of discovery, and had replied that he would give his services if the King of Spain granted him leave. His heart, however, smote him to think of his benefiting foreigners and forgetting his native Venice, and he had requested Charles to refuse him leave to serve the King of England. Now, therefore, he was ready to disclose to the Republic a passage whereby she would obtain great profit, which is the truth, for I have discovered it." The date of these negotiations, 1522, is important. Magellan's discovery had just been made known, and Mr Harrisse's conjecture is that Sebastian was referring to a still shorter passage, of which he took the credit of discovery" which is the truth, for I have discovered it."
These negotiations with Venice fell through. In 1524 Cabot was employed as an assessor in the Conference at Badajoz concerning the rights of Spain and Portugal to the Moluccas. In 1526 he commanded an expedition to discover the Spice Islands, sailed for La Plata, and explored the Parana to its junction with the Paraguay. On this voyage he took high
handed measures against some of his companions who disagreed with his instructions; and for these he was brought to trial on his return to Spain in 1530, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. A year later the emperor pardoned him; and he was in Seville again in June 1533, and remained chief pilot for fourteen years. In 1547 he made an offer, which was accepted, to enter the service of England, and in the following year he arrived there on leave of absence from Spain, to which he never returned. Charles did all he could to get him back, but Cabot would not go, and England would not send him. Thereafter he fulfilled in various ways the duties to English maritime concerns corresponding to those of the Grand Pilot of Spain. In February 1555 he was named governor for life of the newly founded Company of Merchant Adventurers. Two years later he resigned his pension. He was at that time at least eighty-three years of age, and full of honours; and we hear no more about him. But now more documents have come to light which smudge his memory even in these closing years in England. It is clear that while enjoying the favours of Edward VI. he was intriguing, though fruitlessly, with Venice. There was an almost exact repetition of the treachery of thirty years previously-overtures to the Council of Ten, colleaguings with the Venetian envoy, even the plan to get leave of absence to Venice based on an imaginary claim arising out of his mother's estate.
These are the undisputed facts about Sebastian Cabot. It is not a pretty story. He was an adroit and able man, of fine address, a good navigator, with a European reputation as a maker of maps.
for the firs
that there discovery. out of th
at his c
4. the same time it must be ad and so returned again into England mrd on these undisputed facts with his father after certain years,
that he was a man not to be relied whereby he was thought to have on as to his werd, and a betrayer been born in Venice." The inferof the secrets of his offices And ence is pretty clear: Sebastian and against him. His official designs he had on hand. this far from being all that is Cabot made his birthplace suit the
It was on the strength of state
treachery is counted of importance
chiety as giving weight to the ments of his own, then, that Engcharge that be reared for himself lish and Bristol chroniclers have
enthusiastically claimed Sebastian Cabot as a countryman and a
monument of fame at the expense
of his father's memory.
about Sebastian Cabot's birthplace. documents discovered in the VeneWe have no certain information townsman. That was before the
tian archives made plain the man And upon statements of
His mother, as we have seen, was
sons mentioned in the letters- his own, also, as we must show
an Italian woman. Of the three he was.
patent of 1496, he comes second, next, rested that fame as the
so that we may suppose that he discoverer of America which was bad an elder brother. As the his until these documents estabgrants were made to the sons per- lished his father's claim to it. sonally, they were almost neces- Here is the evidence. sary of age. Sebastian, therefore, tyr was intimately acquainted with in 1407, and so born before 1474. friend," he wrote, "whom I use must have been at least twenty-two Sebastian Cabot. Bat 1474 fals within the fifteen familiarly, and delight to have
"He is my very
years of residence which gave his him sometimes keep me company father Venetian citizenship: thus in mine own house." the presumption is strong that he Peter Martyr's account of the dishowever, is that he could not be at Cabot's name is not so much as was born in Venice. The point, covery of North America, John conclusion we come to from his when the book was published of Bristol, yet that is exactly the Sebastian was at Court with him Once & Venetian born and a native mentioned; but it is stated-and negotiations with Venice, while he searched by one Sebastian Cabot; own statements. During the first "These north seas have been was still in the employ of Spain, . . . he therefore furnished two born in Venice but brought up in charges." England," and a special envoy of of reticence concerning others, in
ships in England at his own "The son had a gift
be told Contarini that he
cluding his father and brothers,"
the Council of Ten employed
that occasion reported that Cabot Dr Dawson says drily. Further, Martyr, who knew him well, and interesting witness in the case "says he is of our city." Peter according to that mysterious and Oviedo spoke of his Venetian birth. known as
"The Mantuan Gentle
On the other hand, Richard Eden, man," Sebastian himself said to
in a marginal note appended to his him-
"When my father died, in that time when news was brought that
had discovered the coasts of India,
carried with his father to Venice, whereof was great talk in the Court
and that at four yeares old he was
me that he was born in Bristowe, Don Christopher Columbus, Genoese,
of King Henry VII., who then reigned, . I thereupon caused the king to be advertised of my device, who immediately commanded to be furnished two caravels with all things, and I began therefore to sail. After certain days I found,' &c."
The salient points of these statements we know not to be true; that about his father having died before the news arrived of Columbus's discovery is a singularly impudent falsehood. It is secondhand evidence; but few will doubt that the man stands convicted of a most unfilial filching of his father's honours.
In the famous planisphere of 1544, frequently, but not with undoubted reason, ascribed to Sebastian Cabot, there occurs the legend, "This land was discovered by John Caboto, Venetian, and Sebastian Cabot, his son." But it is by no means clear that Sebastian accompanied his father in the 1497 voyage. As we have seen, the letters-patent of 1496 were issued in the names of the son as well as of the father it is somewhat to the point that those for the second voyage, that of 1498, were in the name of the father only. In the letter of Pasqualigo describing the heroworship of John Cabot on his return, it is said that the king had given him money wherewith to amuse himself until the second expedition was ready, and that "he is now at Bristol with his Venetian wife and with his sons,"-language which some think we do not lay stress upon it not quite applicable to the case had one or all of the sons sailed with him. Again, Peter Martyr "a very friend"-records that "some of the Spaniards deny that Sebastian was the first finder of the land of Bacallaos region, or that he ever sailed so far westward," a denial which goes far
beyond the 1497 voyage, and is curiously supported later. In 1521 Henry VIII. was preparing an expedition "for a voyage to be made into the newefound lland," which was to be commanded by Sebastian Cabot. For the fitting of it out he made heavy demands upon the Twelve Great Livery Companies of London. In the name of the others, the Drapers objected to the king's levies, on the ground that "we think it were too sore a venture to jeopard five ships with men and goods unto the said lland upon the singular trust of one man, called, as we understand, Sebastian, which Sebastian, as we here say, was never in that land himself, all if he makes report of many things as he hath heard his father and other men speak in times past.'
Mr Harrisse, the unswerving detective of Sebastian Cabot's infamy, goes further: indeed, he goes too far, we think, for the good of his case. He attempts to show that Sebastian's map is untrustworthy, being faked," so to say, at the instigation of his natural instinct for intrigue; that the scientific claims advanced for him have no basis, he being but a very sorry cartographer, and not the discoverer in magnetics that is generally supposed; that his methods for finding the longitude at sea are errors, and not even original errors; worst of all, that he was no navigator. Herein, surely, Mr Harrisse proves too much. Most of the evidence of Cabot's treachery and deceit would fall to the ground but for the assumption that for nearly fifty years he held such a European reputation as a navigator and a maker of maps that his services were run after, and his words on these subjects treasured; and a man could not hold such a reputation for nearly
At the same time, it must be admitted on these undisputed facts that he was a man not to be relied on as to his word, and a betrayer of the secrets of his offices. And this is far from being all that is alleged against him. His official treachery is counted of importance chiefly as giving weight to the charge that he reared for himself a monument of fame at the expense of his father's memory.
We have no certain information about Sebastian Cabot's birthplace. His mother, as we have seen, was an Italian woman. Of the three sons mentioned in the letterspatent of 1496, he comes second, so that we may suppose that he had an elder brother. As the grants were made to the sons personally, they were almost necessarily of age. Sebastian, therefore, must have been at least twenty-two in 1497, and so born before 1474. But 1474 falls within the fifteen years of residence which gave his father Venetian citizenship: thus the presumption is strong that he was born in Venice. The point, however, is that he could not be at once a Venetian born and a native of Bristol, yet that is exactly the conclusion we come to from his own statements. During the first negotiations with Venice, while he was still in the employ of Spain, he told Contarini that he "was born in Venice but brought up in England," and a special envoy of the Council of Ten employed on that occasion reported that Cabot "says he is of our city." Peter Martyr, who knew him well, and Oviedo spoke of his Venetian birth. On the other hand, Richard Eden, in a marginal note appended to his translation of Peter Martyr's 'Decades,' says, "Sebastian Cabot told me that he was born in Bristowe, and that at four yeares old he was carried with his father to Venice,
and so returned again into England with his father after certain years, whereby he was thought to have been born in Venice." The inference is pretty clear: Sebastian Cabot made his birthplace suit the designs he had on hand.
It was on the strength of statements of his own, then, that English and Bristol chroniclers have enthusiastically claimed Sebastian Cabot as a countryman and a townsman. That was before the documents discovered in the Venetian archives made plain the man he was. And upon statements of his own, also, as we must show next, rested that fame as the discoverer of America which was his until these documents established his father's claim to it. Here is the evidence. Peter Martyr was intimately acquainted with Sebastian Cabot. "He is my very friend," he wrote, "whom I use familiarly, and delight to have him sometimes keep me company in mine own house." Now, in Peter Martyr's account of the discovery of North America, John Cabot's name is not so much as mentioned; but it is stated-and Sebastian was at Court with him when the book was published "These north seas have been searched by one Sebastian Cabot;
.. he therefore furnished two ships in England at his own charges." "The son had a gift of reticence concerning others, including his father and brothers," Dr Dawson says drily. Further, according to that mysterious and interesting witness in the case known as "The Mantuan Gentleman," Sebastian himself said to him
"When my father died, in that Don Christopher Columbus, Genoese, time when news was brought that had discovered the coasts of India, whereof was great talk in the Court