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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
fifty years without some cause. Mr Harrisse's conclusions, indeed, sometimes seem to bear witness to the natural tendency to bias in the human mind, quite as much as does the fact that for so long Sebastian's claims were supported. On the planisphere of 1544, the date of the first voyage is given as 1494. It seems quite clear that this was a paleographical error for 1497. The date is given in Roman numerals, м CCCC XCIIII. The map was printed most likely in the the Netherlands, from the Spanish. Sebastian Cabot had no opportunity of correcting the proofsheets, and the substitution of IIII. for VII. clearly is a simple blunder. All the evidence proves the date 1494 impossible. But it is easy to see why it has been stuck to. Starting with the statement of Sebastian that he was born in Bristol, we can claim that North America was discovered by an Englishman. Most certainly John Cabot cannot by any alchemy be changed into an Englishman, and on that ground it is convenient to ignore him. And by assuming the 1494 date, we throw the discovery still further in advance of the making of the mainland of America by Columbus. Many do so; and a similar predisposition to find certain things in the evidence is shown now and then by Mr Harrisse in his determination to prove Sebastian's unworthiness. And, chiefly, Mr Harrisse has a theory to prove connected with the greatly vexed question of John Cabot's landfall. The 1544 map fixes it at Cape Breton, and that is generally accepted. He, however, is convinced that the true landfall is on the north coast of Labrador. It is a question for the experts, and of course the experts disagree, as they may be excused for doing on the scanty facts.
But setting out to prove that the landfall was between 56° and 60°, Mr Harrisse has to account for the Prima Terra Vista appearing on 48°, in the Cabot map, and he does so by saying that the wily Sebastian's motive was to establish British claims for the region at the mouth of the St Lawrence which the voyages of Jacques Cartier had shown to be valuable, and so to make a bid for the favour of England, which he visited shortly afterwards. For this, however, he puts in no proof, and there are strong presumptions against it.
It is remarkable, indeed, how many and how varied are the points in dispute in this story, arising out of the meagreness of the material to our hand for constructing it. Out of the misty cloud of evidence, however, this emerges clearly: John Cabot, not Sebastian, was the discoverer; after nearly four hundred years of an honoured reputation, Sebastian Cabot has been convicted of being a wily and untrustworthy man, howsoever able; and there is sound reason to believe that an unfilial baseness to his father's memory must be attributed to him, inasmuch as he appears to have instigated the statements upon which for so many centuries his name has been set in the ascendant, and his father's kept under a cloud.
When John Cabot sailed from the Port of Bristol on his memorable voyage, Europe was in a fever of discovery. The veil of night that en wrapped them was rent, and men's minds soared upwards with a morning hope. Traveller's tales, passed from mouth to mouth, fired their imaginations with the gorgeous colours of the Orient, and their lust for her gold and spices. They saw the Italian cities, through
command of the Mediterranean, grow rich upon the treasures which the caravans of the East poured into their markets; but they saw, also, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, an ocean on whose untraversed waters already in imagination they were borne to Cathay, and the goldroofed palaces of Cipango. Bit by bit, Portuguese ships felt their way down the coast of Africa, until Bartolomeo Diaz faced an ocean open beyond the Cape, and at last, in this wonderful year of 1497, at the very moment when Cabot with the swelling heart of a discoverer was doling out islands to his Genoese comrades, Vasco di Gama rounded the Cape, and filled his sails for the Eastern seas.
It was the dawn of the new order, in which the power of Empire has passed into the hands of the nations commanding the ocean. The Italian cities, Venice and Genoa, must have seen that their day was waning. They were hemmed in. It is interesting to notice that Contarini knew it. When Sebastian Cabot proposed to him to show Venice his shorter passage to the East
"With regard to the possibility of such an issue I am doubtful" (Contarini wrote); "for I have some slight knowledge of geography, and, considering the position of Venice, I can see no way whatever by which she can undertake these voyages. It would be necessary to sail in vessels built at Venice, or else they must be built outside the Strait. If they are built at Venice, they will have to pass the
Straits of Gibraltar to reach the ocean, which would not be possible in face of the opposition of the King of Portugal and the King of Spain. If they are not built at Venice, they can only be built on the shore of the Western ocean, for they cannot be constructed on the Red Sea without infinite trouble.
Nor can I see any possibility of building ships on the
It had been the policy of the Italian critics, therefore, to keep back their navigators from these enterprises on the Western seas. But the navigators would not be held. The instinct of maritime adventure was in their blood. They had the compass to guide them now. Visions of Ophir lured them on; and the learned men of their own country sped them men like the Florentine Toscanelli, who sent the sea-chart to Columbus to aid him in his "magnificent and great desire to find a way to where the spices grow." When their own critics would not employ them, they gave their services to the Kings of Spain and Portugal, whose opposition to her voyages of discovery in consequence Venice soon had very good reason to fear. In May 1493, shortly after Columbus returned to Spain, Pope Alexander VI., by a bull, drawing a line from the Arctic pole to the Antarctic, a hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands which are commonly called De los Azores and Cape Verde, gave to Spain all the islands and firm lands, discovered and to be discovered after the Christmas of 1492, to the west of this line, and to Portugal all to the east. By the Treaty of Tordesillas a year later, this line was redrawn to pass, north and south, three hundred and seventy leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. Thus we have the islands of the Portuguese called the East Indies. Thus, too, we have the Southern seas unmentioned in the letters-patent of Henry for the voyage of 1497, lest the Portuguese and Spanish envoys should take alarm. And thus we find, years later, Magellan, a Portuguese, in the service of Spain, for it was the interest of Portugal, not to encourage, but rather to thwart, his particular
schemes of discovery. And while the New World was in the making, thus, John Cabot, the Genoese, settled in England.
It is as likely as not that he made his home in Bristol. Anspach, it will be remembered, accounts for his introduction to King Henry by his successful negotiations with the Court of Denmark on behalf of the merchants of Bristol. That is not improbable. Hundreds of years before, the Vikings had searched the northern seas, found the Faroes and Iceland, fought the ice to Greenland, and, almost beyond a doubt, sighted, it may be even landed on, Labrador. This legacy of sober enterprise had been bequeathed to the English sailors. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, English voyages to Iceland were numerous. By the fifteenth, a flourishing trade existed between the two countries. In this intercourse with Iceland, Bristol was always to the front, and once she had a monopoly of it. So important had it grown that an interruption of it could become a casus belli between England and Denmark; and it is not impossible that Cabot was engaged about 1495 in prosecuting the claims of the Bristol men for ships seized and cargoes sold by the Danish king in the war which had just ended. But besides trade and sober adventures in the north seas, the Bristol mariners had those visions and fancies to which so greatly, as Nansen says, England owes her territory to-day: visions of ice-free seas, dreams of the Antilia, the land that the Portuguese in the Canaries saw shining in the west in the setting of the sun, the "green isles of the flood" that vanished at the fisherman's approach. We find Columbus, in a
letter describing a voyage to Iceland, recording that a mariner of Bristol sailed from there on July 15, 1480, with ships of 80 tons burden, to discover the mysterious land of Brasylle or O'Brazil, reputed to lie in the Atlantic; and between then and 1497, seven times, Bristol men set out for the island of Brazil and the Seven Cities. They were "dreamers, dreaming greatly," who "yearned beyond the sky-line where the strange roads go down"; and among them came Cabot, learned as they in all navigating arts, with a greater knowledge of geography, and his own hot fancies about a western way to Cipango, which the spice caravans at Mecca had fired, and the news of Columbus's voyage were to set ablaze afresh. And they and he, sailing out once more, came to the continent of North America, and realised their dreams in a discovery such as they never dreamed of. For just as Columbus set sail for the land of spices, and when he came to Cuba made sure that it was Cipango, nor ever thought but that the land he found was the territory of the Grand Khan; so John Cabot, when he discovered the island, where the land was fertile and temperate, and fish so plentiful that the trade with Iceland
must cease, had his thoughts still directed to the greater undertaking of sailing "along the coast to the east, where he believes all the spices of the world grow, and where there are also gems," and hopes to make London a greater place for spices than Alexandria. Even so, two hundred years later, La Salle named his estate on the rapids of the St Lawrence Lachine, in the belief that it was on a waterway that led to China. From that greater undertaking, so far
as we know, John Cabot never returned. In his second voyage to the north, in 1501, Corte-Real found in Nova Scotia or Cape Breton "a broken sword, gilded, which was certainly made in Italy," and in the ears of a native boy two silver rings "which with out doubt seem to have been manufactured in Venice." It is believed that these must have been relics of John Cabot's second expedition. Mr Weare makes the interesting suggestion that Cabot reached the mainland and was there met and killed by Alonso de Hojeda, who with La Cosa, the map-maker, as chief pilot, and Amerigo Vespucci as one of his "useful companions," set sail for the north in the spring of 1499. Certainly, Hojeda would have little scruple in putting out of the way any Englishman whom he found on lands dedicated to Spain by the papal bull. And we might thus explain the presence, in La Cosa's map of 1500, of English
flags on territory of greatly wider extent than that discovered by Cabot in the 1497 voyage. But all this is conjecture. It is enough that we know that John Cabot discovered North America, and that this year of rejoicings throughout the empire is the fourth centenary of the expedition by which the foundations of the empire were laid.
"When Drake went down to the Horn,
And England was crowned thereby, 'Twixt seas unsailed and shores unhailed
Our Lodge-our Lodge was born (And England was crowned thereby !)"
Such is the "Song of the Dead," who call on their sons to follow after "by the bones on the way." And we may say, this year more surely than ever, that these sons still living are a Lodge-a Lodge of Empire, born when John Cabot discovered America, long before Drake went down to the Horn. And England thereby is crowned!