Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors]

planted on this newly found land acquainted with the Genoese in

a large cross, with one flag of London. England and another of St Mark, These are the only original on account of his being a Vene- documents extant bearing directly tian.” One point this letter fixes on John Cabot and his expedition, is the date of Cabot's sailing at and out of them we might fairly about the middle of May 1497. construct the story of the discovery At this time Raimondo di Soncino as it is generally accepted now. was the ambassador in England John Cabot, born, probably, in of Ludovic the Moor, who then Genoa, and somewhere about 1450, held Genoa as a fief of the French resided in Venice for the fifteen crown: and in a despatch to the years necessary to qualify for Duke of Milan, dated August 24, Venetian citizenship, married in 1497, Soncino mentions, among Italy, and had three sons-Lewis, other things about Cabot and his the famous Sebastian, and Sanctus. expedition, that they sailed from Of his doings between 1476, when Bristol, a western port of this the privileges of naturalisation were kingdom, some months since," conferred upon him, and 1496, the which in a measure corroborates date of Henry's first grant of Pasqualigo's date. On December letters - patent, we

can do little 13, 1497, Henry VII. granted a more than conjecture. He had pension of £20 per annum to John become an experienced navigator, Cabot, which was to be a charge and had settled in England : so upon the port of Bristol ; and five much is certain. According to days later, Raimondo di Soncino Soncino, he had sailed along the sent a second despatch to the Arabian coast and visited Mecca. Duke of Milan, in which he went very fully into the particulars

“He says that he was once at of "Cabot's discovery, concerning spices are carried by caravan, and

Mecca, where from remote countries which he had conversed with

that those carrying them, being asked Cabot himself. New letters-patent where those spices grew, said they were granted to John Cabot (this did not know, but that they came time there is no mention of the with other merchandise from remote sons) by Henry on the 3d day of countries to their home by other February 1498, and it would seem

caravans, and that the same inforthat the king made several loans brought the spices in turn to them,

mation was repeated by those who to companions of the admiral And he argues that if the oriental “going to the newe ile.” On July people tell to those of the south that 25 of that year, Pedro de Ayala, these things are brought from places the junior Spanish ambassador in remote from them, and thus from England, addressed to Ferdinand hand to hand, presupposing the and Isabella a despatch in which sphericity of the earth, it follows he mentions having "seen the map towards the west.”

that the last carry to the northern, which the discoverer has made, who is another Genoese, like According to Pedro de Ayala, Columbus”; and statements of a again, he went to Lisbon and similar kind as to the nationality Seville to seek help for the enterof John Cabot (who by this time prise he contemplated. Some, had sailed on his second voy- putting these two statements toage) are to be found in the de- gether, argue that Cabot forestalled spatches of the Spanish ambassador Columbus in his great idea, or, at De Puebla, a man intimately any rate, was not forestalled by

him. The argument is not the occupation in felled trees, and in less stupid that it is plausible, and some snares set to catch game, and even probable. No one supposes a needle for making nets, which for a moment that Columbus was Cabot brought back for the king. the first or the only man to dream Evidently the Matthew delayed of reaching Asia by sailing con- not a day in setting sail for home, stantly westwards down the Trades. for it was on St John's Day, June All this, however, although itoccurs 24, that land was sighted, and she in the authentic documents we was back in Bristol by the end of have referred to, is unsupported, July. On the return voyage two and only a little more worthy of islands were passed to starboard, acceptance than the not improb- and with a little human uplifted able statement of Anspach that ness of spirit, Cabot gave one Cabot conducted a successful ne- to a Burgundian, "a companion of gotiation in 1495 with the Court Messer Joane," and the other to of Denmark, on behalf of the mer- his barber, a Genoese. Had he chants of Bristol, and in conse- not discovered the territory of the quence was brought to the favour- Grand Khan, and, as Soncino able notice of Henry VII. Three wrote, gained for his sovereign a years after the news of the success part of Asia without a stroke of of Columbus, at any rate, he pre- the sword? When he was at home sented himself and his scheme to awaiting the fitting out of the new Henry VII., and received that expedition he dressed in silks, Pasmonarch's countenance to his ex- qualigo reports, and swaggered pedition. Early in May 1497 he just a little, perhaps, but no more sailed out of Bristol in the Mat- than became a lion of the season thew, and after a voyage of some to whom great honour was paid, fifty days reached the coast of and after whom “these English North America, landed, claimed run like mad folk." The new a new country for Christendom by letters-patent were issued on Feberecting a large cross, and for ruary 3, 1498, and in the summer England by planting beside it the of that year the five ships of the English flag.

second expedition sailed from

Bristol. One vessel was driven “And then,” Tarducci says, drawn back; the four others reached by that mysterious bond which at every distance of time and place Newfoundland, and then sailing brings us to the image of those dear in a southerly course, made Cape to us, especially in the most solemn Hatteras. So much may be gathand consoling moments of life, he ered. After that John Cabot crossed in thought through the ocean, drops completely out of our knowpassed over England, traversed Eu- ledge, and is as if he had never rope, and sought on the shores of the Adriatic the glorious queen of the

That is the plain history of Lagoons. Twenty years had passed since he left her, but neither length John Cabot as generally accepted : of time nor distance of place could indeed there is scarce a point in weaken his tender affection. And in it which will be disputed by any the new land he had discovered, by writer who has had access to the the side of Christ's cross with the documents, recently only discoverbanner of England he planted the ed in the archives of Europe, from flag of Venice."

which it is derived. As late as On shore no human beings were 1831 Richard Biddle set forth met with, but there were signs of the story with a wonderful acumen,


for the first time making it clear would be familiar, and it may well that there were two voyages of be that Sebastian was sought after; discovery, and so bringing order at any rate, in October of this year out of the contradictory evidence he entered the service of King Ferat his command. But Biddle's dinand, who gave him a post as hero is Sebastian, not John: he naval captain, with a salary of had not seen the letters of Pas- 50,000 maravedis. In June 1515 qualigo and the despatches of he was paid a further allowance Soncino and Ayala and De Puebla. of 10,000 more ; two months later For this is what has happened. he received nine months' arrears Almost all our knowledge of the of pay as Capitan de Mar, and by Cabot voyages was based upon the the end of the year he was apstatements of Sebastian himself. pointed pilot to his majesty. His These were the fabric out of which wife and home were still in Engwas fashioned his world - wide land as late as the autumn of repute. And nearly four hundred 1512, when he removed his houseyears elapsed before there were hold to Seville: it included a brought to light these indisputable daughter, Elizabeth, who in 1516 documents, on the evidence of received a small legacy from her which Sebastian is convicted of godfather, a chaplain in London. falsehood and unfilial conduct, and whether her mother was the is thrown down from the pedestal Spanish Catalina Medrano menwhich he had usurped from his tioned as Sebastian's wife in later father.

documents, we do not know. He To understand this part of our may have made a second marriage story we must gather up the facts after settling in Spain. Curiously, about Sebastian Cabot's life which among the meagre information we are not in dispute. Whether or have of Sebastian's career is the not he sailed with his father in testimony of several witnesses that the famous expedition of 1497, he Catalina was a high-spirited woman was living at Bristol in these who kept her husband “under the twelve months before the second thumb," and instigated him in voyage, when the admiral was some of his ill-doings. dressing in silks and being run Sebastian Cabot reached the after by the English folks in a height of his career in February fashion that made

made Pasqualigo 1518, when Charles V. made him sneer. At this time Sebastian pilot-major. It was about this must have been at least twenty- time that he made the acquainttwo years of age. The ensuing ance of Peter Martyr, of which we years were spent in the study of are to hear more. Meanwhile, at navigation and cartography, and the moment of his success, when he was paid a gratification of 20s. he was enjoying the confidence of for a map of Gascony and Guyenne his sovereign and possessed of all for the use of the expedition of the secrets of his adopted country, Spain and England against the he was carrying on an intrigue south of France in 1512, and in with Venice to transfer his services some capacity or other he accom- and his knowledge to the Republic. panied the expedition. Probably of this there can be no doubt. his fame had gone beyond the For centuries his treachery was bounds of England : in Spain, it hid, but at last the archives of is certain, the name of Cabot the Venice gave up the despatches of discoverer of the new found land Contarini, the Venetian ambassador to Spain, in which the handed measures against some of whole story is laid bare, Cabot's his companions who disagreed with overtures to the Council of Ten his instructions; and for these he were made through a Ragusian was brought to trial on his return adventurer: we can trace in Con- to Spain in 1530, and sentenced tarini's despatches the whole course to two years' imprisonment. A of the negotiations, down to the year later the emperor pardoned concoction of a plan to get leave him; and he was in Seville again for Cabot to visit Venice on the in June 1533, and remained chief plea that his immediate presence pilot for fourteen years. In 1547 there was demanded in connec- he made an offer, which was action with a claim arising out of cepted, to enter the service of his mother's estate and dowry. England, and in the following Sebastian's statement to the am- year he arrived there on leave bassador was that, when in Eng- of absence from Spain, to which land three years previously, he he never returned. Charles did was offered high terms by Cardinal all he could to get him back, but Wolsey if he would sail with an Cabot would not go, and England armada on a voyage of discovery, would not send him. Thereafter and had replied that he would he fulfilled in various ways the give his services if the King of duties to English maritime conSpain granted him leave. His

cerns corresponding to those of heart, however, smote him to the Grand Pilot of Spain. In think of his benefiting foreigners February 1555 he was named and forgetting his native Venice, governor for life of the newly and he had requested Charles to founded Company of Merchant refuse him leave to serve the King Adventurers. Two years later of England. Now, therefore, he he resigned his pension. He was was ready to disclose to the Re- at that time at least eighty-three public "a passage whereby she years of age, and full of honours ; would obtain great profit, which and we hear no more about him. is the truth, for I have discovered But now more documents have it.” The date of these negotiations, come to light which smudge his 1522, is important. Magellan's memory even in these closing discovery had just been made years in England. It is clear known, and Mr Harrisse's con- that while enjoying the favours jecture is that Sebastian was re- of Edward VI. he was intriguing, ferring to a still shorter passage, though fruitlessly, with Venice. of which he took the credit of There was an almost exact repetidiscovery—“which is the truth, tion of the treachery of thirty for I have discovered it."

years previously-overtures to the These negotiations with Venice Council of Ten, colleaguings with fell through. In 1524 Cabot was the Venetian envoy, even the plan employed as an assessor in the to get leave of absence to Venice Conference at Badajoz concerning based on an imaginary claim aristhe rights of Spain and Portugal ing out of his mother's estate. to the Moluccas. In 1526 he These are the undisputed facts commanded an expedition to dis- about Sebastian Cabot. It is not cover the Spice Islands, sailed for a pretty story. He was an adroit La Plata, and explored the Parana and able man, of fine address, a to its junction with the Paraguay. good navigator, with a European On this voyage he took high- reputation as a maker of maps.


[ocr errors]

Lex. Dory is counted of importanx

of his father's memory,

pareat of 1434, he comes

soca't, they were almost neces.

for the firs

(June that there discovery

wad and so returned again into England out of th at his hero is

2. ff. as eran Eodisputed facts with his father after certain years, had no

dat he was a nad 104 D berriied whereby he was thought to have qualigo

te w me his sw, ands betra ver been born in Venice." The infer

ab and his com Andence is pretty clear: Sebastian Soncin

sed unst him. His oticial designs he had on hand.
si tar them being a that is Cabot made his birthplace suit the

It was on the strength of state-

chirt's giring weight to the ments of his own, then, that Eng. Cabr stat cbarze that be rand for himself lish and Bristol chroniclers have

Cabot as a countryman and a The wa

S DOREZ"ent oʻtame at the expense enthusiastically claimed Sebastian re

slout Shostian Cabot's birthplace. documents discovered in the Vene

We have no wrtain information townsman. That was before the y

And upon statements of soos Destioned in the letters. his own, also, as we must show en lajar FOBIAD. Of the three he was. His Lother, as we bare seen, was tian archives made plain the man

second, next, rested that fame as the that we may suppose that he discoverer of America which was Asd az eider brother. As the his until these documents estabgints were made to the sons per- lished his father's claim to it.

Here is the evidence. Peter Markarir ofage Schastian, therefore, tyr was intimately acquainted with

"He is my very aast is re ito at least twenty-two Sebastian Cabot. in it, and so born before 1474. friend,” he wrote, " whom I use Bar 14+ fa's within the fifteen familiarly, and delight to have Fears of rsiden which gave his him sometimes keep me company the presuaption is strong that he Peter Martyr's account of the disEsther Venetian citizenship: thus in mine own house."

bom in Venice. The point, covery of North America, John bowerer, is that he could not be at Cabot's name is not so much as once a Venetian born and a native mentioned; but it is stated-and of Bristol, ret that is exactly the Sebastian was at Court with him conclusion we come to from his when the book was published

" These north seas have been On statements. During the first Degotiations with Venice, while he searched by one Sebastian Cabot ;

. he therefore furnished two be told Contarini that he was ships in England at his own Das stil in the employ of Spain,

“ The son had a gift Eng and," and a special envoy of of reticence concerning others, in

on cluding his father and brothers," tbst aussion reported that Cabot Dr Dawson says drily. Further, the Council of Ten employed wars he is of our city." Peter according to that mysterious and

the case

“ The Mantuan GentleVartyr, who knew him well, and interesting witness in (riedo spoke of his Venetian birth. known as 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 translation of Peter Martyr's 'De

time when news was brought that cades 'sars "Sebastian Cabot told

had discovered the coasts of India, me that he was born in Bristowe, Don Christopher Columbus, Genoese, and that at four yeares old he was carried with his father to Venice, whereof was great talk in the Court

« PoprzedniaDalej »