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poets' had declared, that empires beyond the ocean CHAP. would one day be revealed to the daring navigator. But Columbus deserves the undivided glory 1492. of having realized that belief. During his lifetime he met with no adequate recompense. The selflove of the Spanish monarch was offended at receiving from a foreigner in his employ benefits too vast for requital; and the contemporaries of the great navigator persecuted the merit, which they could not adequately reward. Nor had posterity been mindful to gather into a finished picture the memorials of his career, till the genius of Irving, with candor, liberality, and original research, made a record of his eventful life, and in mild but enduring colors sketched his sombre inflexibility of purpose, his deep religious enthusiasm, and the disinterested magnanimity of his character.
Columbus was a native of Genoa. The commerce of the middle ages, conducted chiefly upon the Mediterranean Sea, had enriched the Italian republics, and had been chiefly engrossed by their citizens. The path for enterprize now lay across the ocean.
1 By far the most remarkable ject, and which has been so amply passage in an early writer, predict- and so successfully treated. The ing, with much amplification, the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella future career of discovery, I have is, in part, an American theme, seen quoted only in the History of for it connects the political histhe Reign of Ferdinand and İsa- tory of Europe and the New bella, the Catholic, of Spain; a World. history not yet completed, but of 2 Tasso, La Gerusalemme Libwhich I have been favored by the erata, c. xv. st. 30–32. author with the opportunity of Tu spiegherai, Colombo, a un nuovo polo consulting the manuscript. The Lontane si le fortunate antenne, writer necessarily includes the ca
Ch' appena seguirà con gli occhi il volo
La fama, ch'ha mille occhi e mille penne. reer of Columbus. I may well Canti ella Alcide e Bacco; e dite solo omit to dwell upon a topic, which
Basti ai posteri tuoi, ch'alquanto accepne,
Che quel poco dará lunga memoria does not directly belong to my sub- Di poema degnissima e d'istoria.
CHAP. The states which bordered upon the Atlantic, Spain,
Portugal, and England, became competitors for the
derived no accessions of wealth or power. 1497. In the new career of western adventure, the AmerJune 24.ican continent was first discovered under the aus
pices of the English, and the coast of the United States by a native of England. In the history of maritime enterprize in the New World, the achievements of John and Sebastian Cabot are, in boldness, success, and results, second only to those of Columbus. The wars of the houses of York and Lancaster had ceased ; tranquillity and thrifty industry had been restored by the prudent severity of Henry VII.; the spirit of commercial activity began to be successfully fostered; and the marts of England were thronged with Lombard adventurers. The fisheries of the north had long tempted the merchants of Bristol to an intercourse with Iceland ;) and the nau
1 Sebastian Cabot declares him- 2 S. Parmenius of Buda in Hakself a native of Bristol. The de- luyt's Collection, v. iii. p. 183, edicisive authority is a marginal note tion of 1810, and in i. Mass. Hist. of Eden, in the History of the Coll. v. ix. p. 74. Travayles in the East and West
Magnanimus nostra in regione Cabotus, Indies, hy R. Eden and R. Willes, Proximus a magno ostendit sua ve la Colombo. 1577, fol. 267. “ Sebastian Cabot tolde me, that he was borne in 3 Selden's Mare Clausum, lib. Brystow,” &c. Compare Memoir ii. c. 32. Et præsertim versus inof Cabot, p. 67–69.
sulam de Islande, &c. &c.
FIRST VOYAGE OF THE CABOTS.
tical skill, necessary to buffet the storms of the At- CHAP. lantic, had been acquired in this branch of northern commerce. Nor is it impossible, that some uncertain 1496. traditions respecting the remote discoveries, which Icelanders had made in Greenland towards the northwest, "where the lands' did nearest meet," should have excited "firm and pregnant conjectures." The magnificent achievement of Columbus, revealing the wonderful truth, of which the germs may have existed in the imagination of every thoughtful mariner, won the admiration which was due to an enterprize that seemed more divine than human, and kindled in the breasts of the emulous a vehement desire to gain as signal renown in the same career of daring; while the politic king of England desired to share in the large returns, which were promised by maritime adventure. It was, therefore, not difficult for John Cabot, a Venetian merchant, residing at Bristol, to engage Henry VII. in plans for discovery. He obtained from that monarch a patent, empower- 1496. ing himself and his three sons, or either of them, their Mar. heirs, or their deputies, to sail into the eastern, western, or northern sea, with a fleet of five ships, at their own proper expense and charges; to search for islands, countries, provinces, or regions, hitherto unseen by Christian people; to affix the banners of Eng
passage from Ramusio is also in
3 See the patent in Hakluyt, v. iii.
CHAP. land on any city, island, or continent, that they might I. find; and, as vassals of the English crown to possess and Occupy the territories that might be discovered. It was further stipulated in this "most ancient American state paper of England," that the patentees should be strictly bound in their voyages to land at the port of Bristol, and to pay to the king one fifth part of the emoluments of the navigation; while the exclusive right of frequenting all the countries that might be found, was reserved, unconditionally and without limit of time, to the family of the Cabots and their assigns. Under this patent, containing the worst features of colonial monopoly and commercial restriction, John Cabot and his celebrated son Sebastian, embarked for the west. Of what tempests they encountered, what mutinies they calmed, no record has been preserved. The discovery of the American continent,3 probably in the latitude of fifty-six degrees, far, therefore, to the north 1497. of the straits of Belle-Isle, among the polar bears, 24. the rude savages, and the dismal cliffs of Labrador, was the fruit of the voyage.
It has been attempted to deprive the father of the glory of having accompanied the expedition. The surest documentary evidence confirms his claims. He and his son Sebastian first approached the continent,
1 Chalmers, p. 7.
2 Second patent to John Cabot, of Feb. 3, 1498, first printed in Memoir of Sebastian Cabot, p. 75. The extract from the map of Sebastian Cabot is equally explicit. Hakluyt, v. iii. p. 27.
3 Extract from Cabot's map, in
Hakluyt, v. i. p. 27. Ramusio sopra li viaggi, &c. v. i. fol. 402. The map of Ortelius, in his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, gives the island St. John in latitude fifty-six degrees. The work of Ortelius, in the editions of 1584 and of 1592 is at Cambridge.
DISCOVERY OF THE AMERICAN CONTINENT.
which no European had dared to visit, or had known CHAP. to exist. The navigators hastened homewards to announce their success. Thus the discovery of our
1497. continent was an exploit of private mercantile adventure; and the possession of the new found "land and isles," was a right, vested by an exclusive patent in the family of a Bristol merchant. Yet the Cabots derived little benefit from the expedition, which their genius had suggested, and of which they alone had defrayed the expense. Posterity hardly remembered, that they had reached the American continent nearly fourteen months before Columbus, on his third voyage, came in sight of the main land ; 1498, and almost two years before Americus Vespucci 14.99.
Aug. sailed west of the Canaries. But England acquired through their energy such a right to North America, as this indisputable priority could confer. Henry VII. and his successors recognized the claims of Spain and Portugal, only so far as they actually occupied the territories, to which they laid pretension; and, at a later day, the English parliament and the English courts derided a title, founded, not upon occupancy,
upon a grant from the Roman Pontiff.
Confidence and zeal awakened ; and Henry grew 1498. circumspect in the concession of rights, which now seemed about to become of immense value. A new patent' was issued to John Cabot, less ample in the
1 Proceedings and Debates of Seb. Cabot, p. 75. Stow's Chronthe House of Commons, 1620 and icle, 1498, in Ilakluyt, v. iii. p. 30, 1621, v. i. p. 250, 251.
31. Memoir of Cabot, p. 80-86, 2 See the patent in Memoir of