It has been already mentioned that Columbus, on leaving Portugal to offer his services to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain for the discovery of the Indies by a western course through the Atlantic, sent his brother Bartholomew to make a similar offer to Henry vii. King of England, lest his proposals might not have been listened to by the court of Spain. Bartholomew, as has been formerly related, was taken by pirates; and on his arrival in England was forced to procure the means of living, and of enabling himself to appear before the king, by the construction and sale of sea-charts and maps, in which he had been instructed by his brother. Owing to this long delay, when he at length presented himself to King Henry, and had even procured the acceptance of his brothers proposals, so much time had been lost that Isabella queen of Castille had already entered into the views of his illustrious brother, who had sailed on his second voyage to the West Indies, while Bartholomew was on his journey through France to announce to him that Henry King of England had agreed to his proposals.
The fame of the astonishing discovery made by Columbus in 1591, soon spread throughout Europe; and only four years afterwards, or in 1595, a patent was granted by Henry vii. to John Cabot, or Giovani Cabota, a Venetian citizen, then resident in England, and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sancius, and their heirs and deputies, to sail to all parts countries and seas of the east west and north, at their own cost and charges, with five ships; to seek out discover and find whatsoever islands, countries, regions, or provinces belonging to the heathen and infidels, were hitherto unknown to Christians, and to subdue, occupy, and possess all such towns, cities, castles, and islands as they might be able; setting up the royal banners and ensigns in the same, and to command over them as vassals and lieutenants of the crown of England, to which was reserved the rule, title, and jurisdiction of the same. In this grant Cabot and his sons, with their heirs and deputies, were bound to bring all the fruits, profits, gains, and commodities acquired in their voyages to the port of Bristol; and, having deducted from the proceeds all manner of necessary costs and charges by them expanded, to pay to the king in wares or money the fifth part of the free gain so made, in lieu of all customs of other dues; of importation on the same. By these letters patent; dated at Westminster on the 5th of March in the eleventh year of Henry vii. all the other subjects of England are prohibited from visiting or frequenting any of the continents, islands, villages, towns, castles, or places which might be discovered by John Cabot, his sons, heirs, or deputies, under forfeiture of their ships and goods.
[Footnote 1: Hakluyt, III. 26.]
No journal or relation remains of the voyages of Cabot and his sons in consequence of this grant, and we are reduced to a few scanty memorials concerning them; contained in the third volume of Hakluyt’s Collection of the Early Voyages, Travels, and Discoveries of the English Nation. We quote from the new edition, with additions, published at London in 1810.