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which the false title of Sebastian Cabot has been based for three or four centuries are scarcely less meagre, and in addition they are contradictory and of doubtful authority. We are not going to go through the evidence here, with a view to arguing the father's case against the son's. That is a maze none but the experts can move in freely. John Cabot's claim is set beyond dispute now, and his fame established once for all. The manner in which this has come about demands our attention only because it enhances the picturesqueness of John Cabot's story. His voyage is engaging in itself, and the unravelling of the history of it has something of the fascination of detective fiction.

The first of the known existing documents throwing light upon John Cabot and his expedition is found among the State Archives of Venice. It is an order to record, under date March 28, 1476, the granting of the privilege of citizenship, within and without, in favour of John Caboto, in consideration of a residence of fifteen years. Further, in the Book of Privileges, in which are set forth privileges of various kinds granted between 1435 and 1562, there is a list of these grants of citizenship, within and without, in which John Cabot's is the thirteenth. In the case of Cabot the date is not given, and his nationality is not stated, as it is in most of the others; but from the preamble to the list, and from what is known of the conditions of naturalisation in Venice at this period, it is clear that the recipients of the grants were not natives of the city, or even of the Duchy, but were aliens, and possibly inhabitants of the conquered territories, who had resided in Venice for fifteen years, fulfilling during that time all the duties of


residents and paying their taxes. The next notice we have of John Cabot occurs twenty years later, in a petition, filed by him and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sanctus, and presented to Henry VII. of England, praying for "your gracious letters - patentes under your grete seale in due forme to be mayde according to the tenour hereafter ensuying." This petition is dated, as delivered to the Chancellor at Westminster to be acted upon, March 5, 1496, and that is the date of the letterspatent which the king granted to the Cabots in answer to it. Now the "tenour hereafter ensuying," there is reason to believe, was 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." The letters-patent, while repeating this, expressly limit the right of "full and free authority, faculty and power of navigating to all parts, countries, and seas of the east, west, and north." The style of the petition and the omission of the seas of the south from the letters-patent should be kept in mind, for they have a bearing on a later part of our story. On the 10th of August in the year following-that is, in 1497—there occurs an entry, among the Privy Purse expenses of Henry VII., of a gratuity "to hym that founde the New Isle." In a letter written on the 23d of the same month by Lorenzo Pasqualigo, a Venetian in London, to his two brothers in Venice, it is stated that John Cabot, "the Venetian, our Contryman," had returned from his voyage of three months, in which he had discovered "the territory of the Grand Khan," and had

planted on this newly found land a large cross, with one flag of England and another of St Mark, on account of his being a Venetian." One point this letter fixes is the date of Cabot's sailing at about the middle of May 1497. At this time Raimondo di Soncino was the ambassador in England of Ludovic the Moor, who then held Genoa as a fief of the French crown and in a despatch to the Duke of Milan, dated August 24, 1497, Soncino mentions, among other things about Cabot and his expedition, that they sailed from Bristol, a western port of this kingdom, some months since," which in a measure corroborates Pasqualigo's date. On December 13, 1497, Henry VII. granted a pension of £20 per annum to John Cabot, which was to be a charge upon the port of Bristol; and five days later, Raimondo di Soncino sent a second despatch to the Duke of Milan, in which he went very fully into the particulars of Cabot's discovery, concerning which he had conversed with Cabot himself. New letters-patent were granted to John Cabot (this time there is no mention of the

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sons) by Henry on the 3d day of February 1498, and it would seem that the king made several loans to companions of the admiral "going to the newe ile." On July 25 of that year, Pedro de Ayala, the junior Spanish ambassador in England, addressed to Ferdinand and Isabella a despatch in which he mentions having "seen the map which the discoverer has made, who is another Genoese, like Columbus"; and statements of a similar kind as to the nationality of John Cabot (who by this time had sailed on his second voyage) are to be found in the despatches of the Spanish ambassador De Puebla, a man intimately

acquainted with the Genoese in London.

These are the only original documents extant bearing directly on John Cabot and his expedition, and out of them we might fairly construct the story of the discovery as it is generally accepted now. John Cabot, born, probably, in Genoa, and somewhere about 1450, resided in Venice for the fifteen years necessary to qualify for Venetian citizenship, married in Italy, and had three sons-Lewis, the famous Sebastian, and Sanctus. Of his doings between 1476, when the privileges of naturalisation were conferred upon him, and 1496, the date of Henry's first grant of letters - patent, we can do little more than conjecture. He had become an experienced navigator, and had settled in England: so much is certain. According to Soncino, he had sailed along the Arabian coast and visited Mecca.

"He says that he was once at Mecca, where from remote countries spices are carried by caravan, and that those carrying them, being asked where those spices grew, said they did not know, but that they came with other merchandise from remote

countries to their home by other caravans, and that the same information was repeated by those who brought the spices in turn to them. And he argues that if the oriental people tell to those of the south that these things are brought from places remote from them, and thus from hand to hand, presupposing the sphericity of the earth, it follows that the last carry to the northern, towards the west."

According to Pedro de Ayala, again, he went to Lisbon and Seville to seek help for the enterprise he contemplated. Some, putting these two statements together, argue that Cabot forestalled Columbus in his great idea, or, at any rate, was not forestalled by


The argument is not the less stupid that it is plausible, and even probable. No one supposes for a moment that Columbus was the first or the only man to dream of reaching Asia by sailing constantly westwards down the Trades. All this, however, although it occurs in the authentic documents we have referred to, is unsupported, and only a little more worthy of acceptance than the not improbable statement of Anspach that Cabot conducted a successful negotiation in 1495 with the Court of Denmark, on behalf of the merchants of Bristol, and in consequence was brought to the favourable notice of Henry VII. Three years after the news of the success of Columbus, at any rate, he presented himself and his scheme to Henry VII., and received that monarch's countenance to his expedition. Early in May 1497 he sailed out of Bristol in the Matthew, and after a voyage of some fifty days reached the coast of North America, landed, claimed a new country for Christendom by erecting a large cross, and for England by planting beside it the English flag.

"And then," Tarducci says, "drawn by that mysterious bond which at every distance of time and place brings us to the image of those dear to us, especially in the most solemn and consoling moments of life, he crossed in thought through the ocean, passed over England, traversed Europe, and sought on the shores of the Adriatic the glorious queen of the Lagoons. Twenty years had passed since he left her, but neither length of time nor distance of place could weaken his tender affection. And in the new land he had discovered, by the side of Christ's cross with the banner of England he planted the flag of Venice."

On shore no human beings were met with, but there were signs of

occupation in felled trees, and in some snares set to catch game, and a needle for making nets, which Cabot brought back for the king. Evidently the Matthew delayed not a day in setting sail for home, for it was on St John's Day, June 24, that land was sighted, and she was back in Bristol by the end of July. On the return voyage two islands were passed to starboard, and with a little human upliftedness of spirit, Cabot gave one to a Burgundian, "a companion of Messer Joane," and the other to his barber, a Genoese. Had he not discovered the territory of the Grand Khan, and, as Soncino wrote, gained for his sovereign a part of Asia without a stroke of the sword? When he was at home awaiting the fitting out of the new expedition he dressed in silks, Pasqualigo reports, and swaggered just a little, perhaps, but no more than became a lion of the season to whom great honour was paid, and after whom "these English run like mad folk." The new letters-patent were issued on February 3, 1498, and in the summer of that year the five ships of the second expedition sailed from Bristol. One vessel was driven back; the four others reached Newfoundland, and then sailing in a southerly course, made Cape Hatteras. So much may be gathered. After that John Cabot drops completely out of our knowledge, and is as if he had never


That is the plain history of John Cabot as generally accepted: indeed there is scarce a point in it which will be disputed by any writer who has had access to the documents, recently only discovered in the archives of Europe, from

which it is derived. As late as 1831 Richard Biddle set forth the story with a wonderful acumen,

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 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. 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.

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