Days of the Discoverers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Days of the Discoverers.
had secured the governorship of that land, Cabot might have been its conqueror.  In 1548, after some years spent in Spain as pilot major, he came back to England, where he was appointed to the position of superintendent of naval affairs.  It was his work to examine and license pilots, and make charts and maps, and some ten years later he died, having founded the company of Merchant Adventurers in 1553.  This company was entitled to build and send out ships for discovery and trade in parts unknown.  By uniting merchant traders in one body, governed by definite rules, and backed by their combined capital, it broke the monopoly of the Hanseatic League and finally drove the Hanse merchants out of England.  Sebastian Cabot was its first governor, holding the office until he died, and has rightly been called the father of free trade.  He had unlocked the harbors of the world to his adopted country, England.


The rules drawn up by Cabot for the merchant adventurers, to be read publicly on board ship once a week, are interesting as showing the character of the man and the great advance made in welding English trade into a company to be guided by the best traditions.  For the first time captains were required to keep a log, and this one thing, by putting on record everything seen and noted by those who sailed strange waters, made an increasing fund of knowledge at the service of each navigator.  Some of the points in the instructions are as follows: 

7.  “That the merchants and other skilful persons, in writing, shall daily write, describe and put in memorie the navigation of each day and night, with the points and observations of the lands, tides, elements, altitude of the sunne, course of the moon and starres, and the same so noted by the order of the master and pilot of every ship to be put in writing; the captain-general assembling the masters together once every weeke (if winde and weather shall serve) to conferre all the observations and notes of the said ships, to the intent it may appeare wherein the notes do agree and wherein they dissent, and upon good debatement, deliberation and conclusion determined to put the same into a common ledger, to remain of record for the companie; the like order to be kept in proportioning of the cardes, astrolabes, and other instruments prepared for the voyage, at the charge of the companie.

12.  “That no blaspheming of God, or detestable swearing, be used in any ship, or communication of ribaldrie, filthy tales, or ungodly talk to be suffered in the company of any ship, neither dicing, tabling, nor other divelish games to be permitted, whereby ensueth not only povertie to the players, but also strife, variance, brauling, fighting and oftentimes murther.

26.  “Every nation and region to be considered advisedly, and not to provoke them by any distance, laughing, contempt, or such like; but to use them with prudent circumspection, with all gentleness and courtesie.”

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Days of the Discoverers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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