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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor



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John Cabot

A Stan Klos Edited Biography

CABOT, John (Italian, Giovanni Caboto, or Zuan Calbot, or Caboto, Venetian dialect), discoverer of the mainland of North America. The time and place of his birth are not positively known. His name first occurs in the Venetian archives, where it appears he was accorded the rights of a citizen on 28 March, 1476 after the required fifteen years' residence.

 

It is known that in 1495 he was, and probably had been for years, an English subject, residing at Bristol. Under date of 5 March, 1496, a patent was issued by authority of the king, Henry VII, licensing Cabot and his three sons, or either of them, their heirs or assigns, to search for islands, provinces, or regions, in the eastern, western, or northern seas; and, as vassals of the king, to occupy the territories that might be found, with an exclusive right to their commerce, on paying the king a fifth part of all profits.

 

Under this authority, Cabot, with his son Sebastian, sailed in May, 1497, and held a westward course for an estimated distance of 700 leagues. On 24 June land was sighted, which he believed to be part of the dominions of the Grand Chain, but which was really the coast of Labrador. This shore he coasted for 300 leagues, finding no evidences of human habitation, and then set sail for home, reaching Bristol in August.

 

At this time, owing mainly to the discoveries of Columbus, the theory that the earth is a sphere had gained general acceptance among advanced thinkers, and it was believed that the shortest route to the Indies lay westward. Cabot's discovery therefore caused much excitement among the adventurous spirits of the day, and on 3 February, 1498, the king issued a special charter, granting to John Cabot authority to impress six English ships at the rates then current for vessels required by the royal navy, to enlist crews, and to follow up his discoveries of the preceding year.

 

Under this charter Cabot made no voyages. It has erroneously been called a second charter, but did not in any way set aside that of 1496, which still remained valid. It is, however, the last record of his career, and it is uncertain when or where he died.

 

He was probably a Venetian by birth, as he is named in the charter of 1498 "Kabotto, Venecian," and his wife was a Venetian. Had there been any possibility of proving him an Englishman, the claim would undoubtedly have been pressed.

 

The authorities concerning his voyages are :

 

1. A letter from Lorenzo Pasqualigo, a merchant residing in London, to his brother in Venice, bearing date 23 August, 1497;

 

2. The legend on the map of Sebastian Cabot, cited by Hakluyt and giving 24 June, 1497, as the date of discovery;

 

3. An Oxford copy of Sebastian's map, on which the date was 1494, with several other authorities giving that year, instead of 1497, as the correct date. But the only official documents--the two charters of Henry VII--agree in fixing the date as first given.

 

Much light has been shed upon the life of Cabot by the researches of Rawdon Brown, of England.

 

--His son, Sebastian Cabot, discoverer, was born probably in Venice between 1475 and 1477; died in London, subsequent to 1557. Both places and dates are uncertain. Richard Eden says that, according to Cabot's own story, he was born in Bristol and carried to Venice at four years of age; but Contarini, the Venetian ambassador at the court of Charles V, quotes Cabot in his diary as claiming Venetian birth and English education. It is believed, but without positive proof, that he accompanied his father on the voyage to the coast of Labrador.

 

In May, 1498, presumably under authority of the royal charter granted to John Cabot, he sailed from Bristol in command of two ships manned by volunteers, in search of a northwest passage. He went so far north that, in the early part of July, daylight was almost continuous.

 

The sea, however, was so full of icebergs that he worked southward, and discovered what is generally believed to have been Newfoundland. Proceeding, he reached the mainland, made several landings, dealt with the natives, and followed the coast southward, probably as far as Chesapeake Bay. In spite of the discovery of a wide domain under the temperate zone, this voyage was considered a failure, since it did not open the passage to the Indies.

 

The contemporary achievements of Vasco da Gama were so much more brilliant that the Cabots were outshone, and so careless were they of their chartered rights that the patent giving them exclusive privileges was lost or mislaid.

 

On the death of Henry VII, Sebastian was invited to Spain by Ferdinand V, and after being appointed one of the "Council of the New Indies," was in 1518 named pilot-major of the kingdom. He never abandoned his ambition to discover a direct route to Asia, and in 1526 sailed in search of a southwest passage. In 1527 he discovered the River Plata, and in 1530 returned to Spain.

 

Meanwhile Edward VI had come to the throne, and, recognizing the value of Cabot to English maritime supremacy, issued a warrant for his return, designating him as "one Shabot, a pilot." Cabot answered the writ in person in 1548, still bent upon voyages of discovery; and on 6 January, 1549, the king gave him a pension of £166 13s. 4d.

 

On 19 January, 1550, Charles V summoned him to return to Spain; but Cabot preferred to remain under English colors, and received additional emoluments, secured a reissue of the lost charter granted by Henry VII, and became president of a company of merchants, having exploration as its object.

 

On 9 September, 1553, after the accession of Queen Mary, Charles V made a final attempt to induce his return to Spain, so great was his personal influence even in his old age. A new company was formed for discovery on 23 February, 1556, with Cabot as president, and early in the succeeding spring an expedition was sent off. The resignation of his pension on 27 May, 1557, and its reissue two days later, are the last authentic incidents in the career of this remarkable man, who was in effect the discoverer of a very large portion of both the American continents. See "Jean and Sebastian Cabot," by Henri Harrisse (Paris, 1882).

 

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia by John Looby, Copyright © 2001 StanKlos.comTM

 

CABOT, John (Italian, Giovanni Caboto, or Zuan Calbot, or Caboto, Venetian dialect), discoverer of the mainland of North America. The time and place of his birth are not positively known. His name first occurs in the Venetian archives, where it appears he was accorded the rights of a citizen on 28 March, 1476 after the required fifteen years' residence. It is known that in 1495 he was, and probably had been for years, an English subject, residing at Bristol. Under date of 5 March, 1496, a patent was issued by authority of the king, Henry VII., licensing Cabot and his three sons, or either of them, their heirs or assigns, to search for islands, provinces, or regions, in the eastern, western, or northern seas; and, as vassals of the king, to occupy the territories that might be found, with an exclusive right to their commerce, on paying the king a fifth part of all profits. Under this authority, Cabot, with his son Sebastian, sailed in May, 1497, and held a westward course for an estimated distance of 700 leagues. On 24 June land was sighted, which he believed to be part of the dominions of the Grand Chain, but which was really the coast of Labrador. This shore he coasted for 300 leagues, finding no evidences of human habitation, and then set sail for home, reaching Bristol in August. At this time, owing mainly to the discoveries of Columbus, the theory that the earth is a sphere had gained general acceptance among advanced thinkers, and it was believed that the shortest route to the Indies lay westward. Cabot's discovery therefore caused much excitement among the adventurous spirits of the day, and on 3 February, 1498, the king issued a special charter, granting to John Cabot authority to impress six English ships at the rates then current for vessels required by the royal navy, to enlist crews, and to follow up his discoveries of the preceding year.

Under this charter Cabot made no voyages. It has erroneously been called a second charter, but did not in any way set aside that of 1496, which still remained valid. It is, however, the last record of his career, and it is uncertain when or where he died. He was probably a Venetian by birth, as he is named in the charter of 1498 "Kabotto, Venecian," and his wife was a Venetian. Had there been any possibility of proving him an Englishman, the claim would undoubtedly have been pressed. The authorities concerning his voyages are : 1. A letter from Lorenzo Pas-quaiigo, a merchant residing in London, to his brother in Venice, bearing date 23 August, 1497; 2. The legend on the map of Sebastian Cabot, cited by Hakluyt and giving 24 June, 1497, as the date of discovery; 3. An Oxford copy of Sebastian's map, on which the date was 1494, with several other authorities giving that year, instead of 1497, as the correct date. But the only otticial documents--the two charters of Henry VII.--agree in fixing the date as first given. Much light has been shed upon the life of Cabot by the researches of Rawdon Brown, of England.--His son, Sebastian, discoverer, was born probably in Venice between 1475 and 1477 ; died in London, subsequent to 1557. Both places and dates are uncertain. Richard Eden says that, according to Cabot's own story, he was born in Bristol and carried to Venice at four years of age; but Contarini, the Venetian ambassador at the court of Charles V., quotes Cabot in his diary as claiming Venetian birth and English education. It is believed, but without positive proof, that he accompanied his father on the voyage to the coast of Labrador.

In May, 1498, presumably under authority of the royal charter granted to John Cabot, he sailed from Bristol in command of two ships manned by volunteers, in search of a northwest passage. He went so far north that, in the early part of July, daylight was almost continuous. The sea, however, was so full of icebergs that he worked southward, and discovered what is generally believed to have been Newfoundland. Proceeding, he reached the mainland, made several landings, dealt with the natives, and followed the coast southward, probably as far as Chesapeake bay. In spite of the discovery of a wide domain under the temperate zone, this voyage was considered a failure, since it did not open the passage to the Indies. The contemporary achievements of Vasco da Gama were so much more brilliant that the Cabots were outshone, and so careless were they of their chartered rights that the patent giving them exclusive privileges was lost or mislaid. On the death of Henry VII., Sebastian was invited to Spain by Ferdinand V., and after being appointed one of the "Council of the New Indies," was in 1518 named pilot-major of the kingdom. He never abandoned his ambition to discover a direct route to Asia, and in 1526 sailed in search of a southwest passage. In 1527 he discovered the River Plata, and in 1530 returned to Spain. Meanwhile Edward VI. had come to the throne, and, recognizing the value of Cabot to English maritime supremacy, issued a warrant for his return, designating him as "one Shabot, a pilot." Cabot answered the writ in person in 1548, still bent upon voyages of discovery; and on 6 January, 1549, the king gave him a pension of £166 13s. 4d. On 19 January, 1550, Charles V. summoned him to return to Spain; but Cabot preferred to remain under English colors, and received additional emoluments, secured a reissue of the lost charter granted by Henry VII., and became president of a company of merchants, having exploration as its object. On 9 September, 1553, after the accession of Queen Mary, Charles V. made a final attempt to induce his return to Spain, so great was his personal influence even in his old age. A new company was formed for discovery on 23 February, 1556, with Cabot as president, and early in the succeeding spring an exp. edition was sent off. The resignation of his pension on 27 May, 1557, and its reissue two days later, are the last authentic incidents in the career of this remarkable man, who was in effect the discoverer of a very large portion of both the American continents. See "Jean and Sebastian Cabot," by Henri Harrisse (Paris, 1882).

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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