A Discourse of Western Planting, by Richard Hakluyt

Chap. XVIII.

That the Queene of Englandes title to all the West Indies, or at the leaste to as moche as is from Florida to the Circle articke, is more lawfull and righte then the Spaniardes, or any other Christian Princes.

To confute the generall claime and unlawfull title of the insatiable Spaniardes to all the West Indies, and to prove the justenes of her Majesties title and of her noble progenitours, if not to all, yet at leaste to that parte of America which is from Florida beyonde the Circle articke, wee are to sett downe in true order, accordinge to the juste observation of tyme, when the West Indyes, with the ilandes and continent of the same, were firste discouered and inhabited, and by what nation, and by whome. Then are wee to answer in generall and particulerly to the moste injurious and unreasonable donation graunted by Pope Alexander the Sixte, a Spaniarde borne, of all the West Indies to the Kinges of Spaine and their successors, to the greate prejudice of all other Christian Princes, but especially to the domage of the Kinges of England.

Ffor the firste pointe, wee of England have to shewe very auncient and auctenticall chronicles, written in the Welshe or Brittishe tongue, wherein wee finde that one Madock ap Owen Guyneth, a Prince of North Wales, beinge wearye of the civill warres and domesticall dissentions in his contrie, made twoo voyadges oute of Wales, and discovered and planted large contries which he founde in the mayne ocean south westwarde of Ireland, in the yere of our Lorde 1170.81 This historie is also to be seene in Englishe in printe, in the booke sett furthe this yere of the Prince of Wales, dedicated to Sir Henry Sidney. And this is confirmed by the language of some of those people that dwell upon the continent betwene the Bay of Mexico and the Grande Bay of Newfoundelande, whose language is said to agree with the Welshe in divers wordes and names of places, by experience of some of our nation that have bene in those partes. By this testimonie it appereth, that the West Indies were discovered and inhabited 322. yeres before Columbus made his firste voyadge, which was in the yere 1492.

Secondly, the acceptation of Columbus his offer of the West Indies by Kinge Henry the Seaventh, at the very firste, maketh moche for the title of the Kinges of England, althoughe they had no former interest; which I will here putt downe as I finde it in the eleventh chapiter of the historie of Ferdinandus Columbus of the relation of the life and doinges of his father: This practise, saieth he, of the Kinge of Portingale (which was secretly to deprive him of the honour of his enterprise), beinge come to the knowledge of the Admyrall, and havinge lately buried his wife, he conceaved so greate hatred againste the citie of Lysbone and the nation, that he determyned to goe into Castile with a younge sonne that he had by his wife, called Diego Colon, which after his fathers deathe succeded in his state. But fearinge, yf the Kinges of Castile also shoulde not consente unto his enterprise, he shoulde be constrayned to begynne againe to make some newe offer of the same to some other Prince, and so longe tyme shoulde be spente therein, he sente into England a brother of his which he had with him, named Bartholmewe Columbus. Nowe Bartholmewe Columbus beinge departed for England, his fortune was to fall into the handes of pyrates, which robbed him, and his other companions that were in his shippe, of all that they had. By which occasion and meanes of his povertie and sicknes, which cruelly afflicted him in a strange contrie, he deferred for a longe space his embassage, till, havinge gotten upp a little money by makinge of seacardes, he began to practize with Kinge Henry the Seaventhe, the father of Kinge Henry the viij’th which nowe reigneth; to whome he presented a general carde, wherein these verses were written, which I will rather here put downe for their antiquitie then for their elegancie:

Terrarum quicunque cupis foeliciter oras Noscere, cuncta decens doctè pictura docebit Quam Strabo affirmat, Ptolomæus, Plinius atque Isidorus: non vna tamen sententia cuique Pingitur hîc etiam nuper sulcata carinis Hispanis Zona illa, priùs incognita genti, Torrida, quæ tandem nunc est notissma multis.

And somewhat more beneath he saied:

Pro authore sive pictore

Janna cui patriæ est nomen, cui Bartholomæus Columbus, de terra rubra, opus edidit istud Londonijs, Anno Domini 1480 atque insuper anno Octauo, decimáque die cùm tertia mensis Februarij. Laudes Christo cantentur abundæ.82

But to returne to the Kinge of England; I say that after he had sene the generall carde, and that which the Admyrall Columbus offred unto him, he accepted his offer with a cherefull countenaunce, and sente to call him into England. These thinges beinge so, wee nede not to be our owne judges, but are able to prove, as you see, by a forren testimonie of singuler greate aucthoritie, that Christopher Columbus, beinge in Portingale, before he wente into Castile, sente his brother Bartholmewe into England to practise with Kinge Henry the Seaventh aboute the discovery of the West Indies, and that his said brother made his generall seacarde of this secrete voyadge in London, in the yere of our Lorde 1488. the xiijth. of February, above foure yeres before Christopher was sett oute upon his firste voyadge by the Princes of Spaine, Ferdinando and Isabella, which was the thirde of Auguste, 1592. It appereth also, that the onely cause for his slowe dispatche was his fallings into the handes of pyrates, which spoiled him and his companie of all that they had; whereby he was inforced a longe tyme to worke in London in makinge instrumentes and seacardes to get somewhat aboute him, that he mighte come in some honest furniture to the Kinges presence. Also, that there was no delaye nor wante of goodd will of the Kinges parte to sett furthe the action, whoe willingly condescended to all Columbus demaundes; as is further to be seene in the 60 chapiter of the same historie, where I reade, that Bartholmewe Columbus, havinge agreed with the Kinge of England upon all capitulations, and returninge into Spaine by Fraunce to fetche his brother, when he hearde newes at Paris that he had concluded in the meane season with the Kinge of Spaine, and was entred into the action for him, was not a little vexed for his brothers abusinge the Kinge of England, which had so curteously graunted all his requestes and accepted of his offer. But Christofer, not receavinge so spedy aunswer as he hoped for from his brother oute of England, by reason of his fallinge into pirates handes, as is aforesaide, and not by reason of any slacknes or unwillingnes of the Kinge, in the meane season, for feare of beinge prevented by the Portingales, which once before in secrete manner had gon aboute to take the honour of the action oute of his handes, was stirred, contrary to honesty, to play on bothe handes, and to deal with the Princes of Spaine before he had receaved the Kinge of Englandes resolucion.

But leavinge this abuse offered to the Kinge of England either by Christopher Columbus or the Kinges of Spaine, in takinge that enterprise oute of his handes which was first sente to him, and never refused by him, and to put the case that Columbus firste discovered parte of the ilandes of Hispaniola and Cuba, yet wee will prove most plainely that a very greate and large parte, as well of the continent as of the ilandes, were firste discovered for the Kinge of England by Sebastian Gabote, an Englishe man, borne in Bristoll, the sonne of John Gabote, a Venesian, in the yere of our Lorde 1496; as an Italian gent, a greate philosopher and mathematitian, witnesseth, which harde the same of his owne mouthe; and there were many then also lyvinge, which wente with him in that voyadge, which coulde have proved him a liar yf it had bene otherwise. These be the very wordes of this gent, which be uttered to certen noblemen of Venice upon the disputation concerninge the voyadges of the spicerye: Know ye not (quoth he) to this effecte, to goe to finde the Easte Indies by the north west, that which one of your citie hath done, which is so skilfull in the arte of navigacion and cosmographie, that he hath not his like in Spaine at this day? And his sufficiencie hath so greately advaunced him, that the Kinge hath given him the oversighte of all the pilotts that saile to the West Indies, so that withoute his licence they cannot meddle in this arte, by reason whereof they call him the Graund Pilott. This was Segnior Sebastian Gabote, which I wente to see, beinge myselfe in Cyvill certen yeres paste, whome I founde to be a moste curteous and gentle person. After he had made very moche of me, and geven me good entertainment, he shewed me many singularities which he had; and amonge the rest, a greate mappe of the worlde, wherein were marked and described all the particular navigations as well of the Portingales as of the Castilians. And he declared unto me, that, his father beinge departed from Venyce, he wente to dwell in England for trade of marchandize, and caried him with him to the citie of London, thoughe he were very younge; yet for all that not so younge but that he had studied [letters] of humanitie and the sphere; moreover, that his father died aboute the tyme that the newes came that Christopher Colon had discovered the coaste of the West Indies, and there was no other talke but of that in the Courte of Kinge Henry the vij’th. which reigned then in England. Whereof every man saied, that yt was rather a thinge devine then humaine, to have founde out that way never knowen before, to goe by the west into the easte. This brute of Segnior Columbus did so inflame my harte, that I determyned also to doe some notable thinge. And knowinge by the reason of the sphere, that, in directinge my course righte towarde the north weste, I shoulde shorten the way greately to goe to the Easte Indies, without delaye I gave the Kinges Majestie to understande of myne opinion, which was marveylously well pleased; and he furnished me of twoo shippes, with all thinges necessarie; and this was in the yere 1496. in the begynnynge of somer. And I began to saile towardes the north west, thinckinge to finde no lande savinge that where Cathaio is, and from thence to turne towardes the Indies. But after certaine daies, I discouered lande which ronneth towardes the northe, wherewithall I was excedingly agreved; notwithstandinge I ceassed not to ronne alonge that coaste towardes the northe, to see yf I coulde finde any gulfe which turned towardes the north weste, until I came to the heighte of 56. degrees of our pole. The reason why the discovery was lefte of in Kinge Henry the Seaventh's tyme. Beinge there, I sawe that the coaste turned towards the easte, and, beinge oute of hope to finde any straite, I turned backe againe to searche out the said coaste towarde the equinoctiall, with intention alwayes to finde some passage to the Indies; and in followinge this coaste I sailed as farr as that parte which at this present they call Florida; and nowe my victualls failinge and fallinge shorte, I sailed no further, but lefte the coaste there, and sailed into England, where I was no sooner arryved but I founde greate troubles of the people, that were upp in armes by reason of the warres in Scotland; whereby the voyadge to those partes was laide aside for that time, and had in no further consideration.

Upon this relation, Monsieur Popiliniere, being a Frencheman, in his seconde booke, Des Trois Mondes, inferreth these speaches: This, then, was that Gabote which firste discovered Florida for the Kinge of England, so that the Englishe men have more righte thereunto then the Spaniardes, yf to have righte unto a contrie, it sufficeth to have firste seene and discovered the same.

Howbeit, Gabota did more then see the contrie, for he wente on lande on divers places, tooke possession of the same accordinge to his patente, which was graunted to his father, John Gabot, to Lewes, himself, and Sancius, his brethren, beinge to be sene in the Rolles and extant in printe: and, moreover, he broughte home three of the savages of the Indies, as Fabian, in his ancient Chronicle, dothe write, declaringe their apparell, feedinge, and other manners, which, he saieth, he observed himselfe in the Courte at Westminster, where he sawe twoo of them, two yeres after they were broughte into England, in Englishe apparell. Nay, that which is more, Gabota discovered this longe tracte of the firme lande twoo yeres before Columbus ever sawe any parte of the continente thereof. For the firste parte of the firme land, called Paria, and Bocca di Dragone, that is to say, the Dragons Mouthe, beinge to the southe of the iland of Hispaniola, was discovered by him in his thirde voyadge; which, as Peter Martir de Angleria, which was one of the councell of the West Indies, wryteth, was in the yere 1498; which is confirmed by Ferdinandus Columbus, his owne sonne, which was with his father in the voyadge (as Oviedo confesseth, libr. 19. cap 1.), and wrote a journall of that voyadge, shewinge, in the 67. chapiter of his historie, that his father firste sawe the firme lande the firste of Auguste in the yere 1498. But Gabote made his greate discoverie in the yere 1496. as he testifieth in his relation above mentioned. And the day of the moneth is also added in his owne mappe, which is yn the Queenes privie gallorie at Westminster, the copye whereof was sett oute by Mr. Clemente Adams, and is in many marchantes houses in London. N f land discoverd. In which mappe, in the chapiter of Newfoundelande, there in Latyn is put downe, besides the yere of our Lorde, even the very day, which was the day of St. John Baptiste; and the firste lande which they sawe they called Prima Visa or Prima Vista: and Mr. Roberto Thorne, in his discourse to Doctor Ley, Kinge Henry the Eights embassador to Charles the Emperour, affirmeth that his father and one Hughe Elliott, of Bristoll, were the firste persons that descried the lande. This case is so clere that the Spaniardes themselves, thoughe full sore againste their willes, are constrained to yielde unto us therein. For Franciscus Lopez de Gomera, in the 4. chapiter of his seconde booke of his Generall Historie of the Indies, confesseth that Sebastian was the firste discoverer of all the coaste of the West Indies, from 58. degrees of northerly latitude to the heighte of 38. degrees towardes the equinoctiall. He whiche broughte moste certeine newes of the contrie and people of Baccalaos, saieth Gomera, was Sebastian Gabot, a Venesian, which rigged up ij. shippes at the coste of Kinge Henry the Seaventh of England, havinge greate desire to traficque for the spices as the Portingales did. He carried with him CCC. men, and tooke the way towardes Island from beyonde the Cape of Labrador, untill he founde himselfe in 58. degrees and better. He made relation that, in the moneth of July, it was so colde and the ise so greate, that he durste not passe any further; that the daies were very longe, in a manner withoute any nighte, and for that shorte nighte that they had it was very clere. Gabot, feelinge the colde, turned towardes the west, refreshing himselfe at Baccalaos; and afterwardes he sailed alonge the coaste unto 38. degrees, and from thence he shaped his course to returne into England.

Moreover, this Fraunces Lopez de Gomera acknowledgeth, in his firste booke and xxjth. chapiter of the Generall Historie of the Indies, that Columbus on his thirde voyadge, sett oute from St Lucar of Barameda, in Spaine, in the ende of May, anno 1497. In which thirde voyadge, at lengthe, after any greate dangers by the way, he arryved in the firme lande of the Indies, towardes the province called Paria, which all the Spanishe authors confesse to have bene the firste of the continent that was discovered for the Kinges of Spaine.

So to conclude; whether wee beleve the testemonie of Peter Martir and Ferdinandus Columbus, which affirme that Christopher Columbus discovered the firme firste in anno 1498. a greate and large tracte of the continente of the Indies was discovered by Gabote and the Englishe above twoo yeres before, to witt, in the yere 1496, in the moneths of June and July; or whether wee be contente to yelde to Gomera, which saieth Columbus sett furthe of the discovery of the firme lande, 1497; yet wee of England are the firste discoverers of the continent above a yere and more before them, to witt, 1496. or, as Clement Adams saith, 1494. in the chapiter of Gabbotts mapp De terra nova, which is above three yeres before the Spaniarde, or any other for the Kinges of Spaine, had any sighte of any parte of the firme lande of the Indies. At leaste wise, by Gomera his owne confession, from 37. degrees of northerly latitude to 38. towardes the equinoctiall, we have beste righte and title of any Christian. As for the discovery of John Ponce de Leon, beinge in anno 1512. yt cannot be prejudiciall to our title, as beinge made sixtene yeres after Gabotes voyadge.

81 See Vol. xii of this collection of Voyages.

82 See Lamartine’s “Columbus” in my Bibliotheca Curiosa.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:00