Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, by Richard Hakluyt

A discourse of Sebastian Cabot touching his discouery of part of the West India out of England in the time of king Henry the seuenth, vsed to Galeacius Butrigarius the Popes Legate in Spaine, and reported by the sayd Legate in this sort.

This discourse is taken out of the second volume of the voyages of Baptista Ramusius.14 Doe you not vnderstand sayd he (speaking to certaine Gentlemen of Venice) how to passe to India toward the Northwest, as did of late a citizen of Venice, so valiant a man, and so well practised in all things pertaining to nauigations, and the science of Cosmographie, that at this present he hath not his like in Spaine, insomuch that for his virtues he is preferred aboue all other pilots that saile to the West Indies, who may not passe thither without his licence, and is therefore called Piloto mayor, that is, the grand Pilot. Sebastian Cabota Pilot mayor of Spaine. And when we sayd that we knew him not, he proceeded, saying, that being certaine yeres in the city of Siuil, and desirous to haue some knowledge of the nauigations of the Spanyards, it was tolde him that there was in the city a valiant man, a Venetian borne named Sebastian Cabot, who had the charge of those things, being an expert man in that science, and one that coulde make Cardes for the Sea, with his owne hand, and by this report, seeking his acquaintance, hee found him a very gentle person, who intertained him friendly, and shewed him many things, and among other a large Mappe of the world, with certaine particular Nauigations, as well of the Portugals, as of the Spaniards, and that he spake further vnto him to this effect.

When my father departed from Venice many yeeres since to dwell in England, to follow the trade of marchandises, hee tooke mee with him to the citie of London, while I was very yong, yet hauing neuerthelesse some knowledge of letters of humanitie, and of the Sphere. And when my father died in that time when newes were brought that Don Christopher Colonus Genuese had discouered the coasts of India, whereof was great talke in all the Court of king Henry the 7, who then raigned, insomuch that all men with great admiration affirmed it to be a thing more diuine then humane, to saile by the West into the East where spices growe, by a way that was neuer knowen before, by this fame and report there increased in my heart a great flame of desire to attempt some notable thing. And vnderstanding by reason of the Sphere, that if I should saile by way of the Northwest, I should by a shorter tract come into India, I thereupon caused the King to be aduertised of my deuise, who immediatly commanded two Caruels to bee furnished with all things appertayning to the voyage, which was as farre as I remember in the yeere 1496. in the beginning of Sommer. I began therefore to saile toward the Northwest, not thinking to finde any other land then that of Cathay, and from thence to turne toward India, but after certaine dayes I found that the land ranne towards the North, which was to mee a great displeasure. Neuerthelesse, sayling along by the coast to see if I could finde any gulfe that turned, I found the lande still continent to the 56. degree vnder our Pole. And seeing that there the coast turned toward the East, despairing to finde the passage, I turned backe againe, and sailed downe by the coast of that land toward the Equinoctiall (euer with intent to finde the saide passage to India) and came to that part of this firme lande which is nowe called Florida, where my victuals failing, I departed from thence and returned into England, where I found great tumults among the people, and preparation for wanes in Scotland; by reason whereof there was no more consideration had to this voyage.

The second voyage of Cabot to the land of Brazil, and Rio de Plata. Whereupon I went into Spaine to the Catholique king, and Queene Elizabeth, which being aduertised what I had done, intertained me, and at their charges furnished certaine ships, wherewith they caused me to saile to discouer the coastes of Brazile, where I found an exceeding great and large riuer named at this present Rio de la plata, that is, the riuer of siluer, into the which I sailed and followed it into the firme land, more then sixe score leagues, finding it euery where very faire, and inhabited with infinite people, which with admiration came running dayly to our ships. Into this Riuer runne so many other riuers, that it is in maner incredible.

The office of Pilote maior. After this I made many other voyages, which I nowe pretermit, and waxing olde, I giue myselfe to rest from such trauels, because there are nowe many yong and lustie Pilots and Mariners of good experience, by whose forwardnesse I doe reioyce in the fruit of my labours, and rest with the charge of this office, as you see.15

14 J. B. Ramusio compiled in Italian a celebrated collection of maritime voyages. The most complete edition is formed by joining vol. I. of 1574 to vol. II. of 1555 and vol. III. of 1554. He died 1557, aged 72.

15 Ramosius has evidently mixed up the two voyages of John Cabot with those of his son. John’s second and last voyage was in 1498, with five ships; though little is known of the result, that little has been collected by Mr. Weise in his “Discoveries of America.”

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