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The most celebrated and oldest Chabots known are the Chabots of Poitou, where, according to Father Anselme-the highest authority in such matters-they have been known since 1040. The device of the head of the family in the first half of the sixteenth century, the famous Philippe de Chabot, Admiral de Brion, was Concussus surgo. Finally, among the Cabots who are the object of the Quatercentenary, the only one who possessed a device was Sebastian, and this device did not read Semper cor, caput Cabot, but Spes in Deo est.
To complete the series of Cabotian vagaries it would prove interesting to describe an extraordinary method of solving the cartographical and philological problems involved in the question, and lately exhibited in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada.1 But we must forego this recreation, to sum up the facts relating to the Cabots which have been absolutely ascertained, and the drift of opinion concerning the rest.
The outcome is about as follows:
John Cabot was of Genoese origin, and a Venetian merely by adoption. His son Sebastian was not born in Bristol, but in Venice. The American continent was discovered not in 1494 but in 1497, and it cannot be said with certainty that the date of June 24 is exact. The discoverer was John Cabot, and not his son Sebastian, who is now believed not to have been even on board. As to the ship's name the "Matthew," it rests upon a very doubtful authority.
The landfall was neither Bonavista Bay nor Cape Breton Island, so far as evidence goes. Nor was it Cape Chidley, which, however, has not been mentioned otherwise than as the supposed terminus of the coasting in 1497.
All we know concerning the second voyage is that in the company of John Cabot's ship, "rigged by the Kynges grace went 3 or 4 moo owte of Bristowe, whereyn dyuers merchauntes as well of London as Bristow aventured goodes and sleight merchaundises, which departed from the West countrey in the begynnyng of Somer 1498." We also know that the fleet had taken supplies for one year, although it was expected back in England in September following, and that it encountered a great storm not far from the coast of Ireland, in consequence of which one of the vessels was disabled and left behind. Finally, we now possess documents tending to show that the previsions of Puebla and Ayala were realized and that John Cabot returned safely to Bristol before September 29, 1498. 1 Second Series, 1897-1898, Vol. III., pp. cxvi.-cxxxii.
As to the rest, whether found in the Decades of Peter Martyr, in the legend of the map of 1544, in Ramusio, or in the 1580 edition of Stow's chronicle and the like, it has no other source, direct or indirect, than what Sebastian chose to relate or invent, and his assertions stand uncorroborated to this day. The contradictions, anachronisms and unquestionable mendacity of the man should deter serious historians from making his statements a basis for their arguments, particularly as to what belongs to the first voyage, or what pertains to the second; considering that Sebastian Cabot never speaks but of one only, mixing perhaps the details of the two expeditions, and without our being able to separate the grain from the chaff, supposing that it is not all chaff.
There is no evidence of any kind that he ever aided the Merchants Adventurers in their struggle with the Steel Yard, the downfall of which proved so beneficial to English manufacture. Nor does he deserve the credit, given to him by certain modern writers, of having initiated the British trade with Russia. That important result was due entirely to the foresight, enterprise and pluck of Richard Chancelor, and was won in spite of the instructions which he and Willoughby had received from Sebastian Cabot.
Sebastian Cabot was an inferior mariner, cosmographer, cartographer and scientist generally, who never discovered the variation or the declination of the compass, as many people believe, or the least thing in magnetics; still less the means of finding the longitude at sea, by divine revelation, as he pretended, or otherwise.
Nor is the astute Italian "the author of the maritime strength of England, who opened the way to those improvements which have rendered the English so great, so eminent, so flourishing a people." The extensive researches instituted for the last fifty years in the numerous naval archives and public records of Great Britain have failed to bring out a single indication, however faint, of his ever having had a hand in the maritime progress of England under the Tudors.
To conclude: So far from the encomiums lavished by modern historians on Sebastian Cabot being true, it is proved beyond cavil and sophistry that he was only an unmitigated charlatan, a mendacious and unfilial boaster, a would-be traitor to Spain, a would-be traitor to England.
"On ne doit aux morts que la vérité.”
SPAIN AND THE UNITED STATES IN 1795
"SPAIN," says Henry Adams, "had immense influence over the United States; but it was the influence of the whale over its captors—the charm of a huge, helpless and profitable victim." The simile may serve to illustrate the temporary interest which the people of the United States have felt from time to time in the condition of the Spanish empire, but it wholly fails to represent either the real relations of the two countries, or the point of view from which the historian must contemplate their development during the past one hundred and forty years. Throughout that period it is profoundly true that events in Spain have exercised, as they are now exercising, an immense though intermittent influence upon our life. The motives which have shaped the policy of that nation—the causes which have operated upon the acts of her rulers—are well worthy of painstaking study by those who would truly comprehend the history of the United States, and much patient enquiry is still needful before all the forces and all the springs of action are laid bare. Even when the facts are fully known, many things will doubtless remain obscure, for no foreigner may ever hope quite to grasp the workings of the Spanish mind.
It is the purpose of this article to suggest, in the most general way, the manner in which and the extent to which the course of events in Spain affected the early settlement and growth of that part of the United States which lies east of the Mississippi and west of the Alleghanies—a region now embracing ten states, and inhabited by some twenty-five millions of people.
The disputed title to this vast and fruitful Hinterland had caused a long and world-wide and bloody war, which was terminated by the cession to Great Britain of the whole of North America east of the Mississippi, except only the island of New Orleans. New Orleans and what lay west of the great river was ceded to Spain. And thus Spain and England, representing then as now the extremes of opposing tendencies in European civilization, were set face to face to solve the problems of this continent. It was the Latin race against the Anglo-Saxon, autocracy against liberalism, reaction against progress, darkness against light.
1 History of the United States, I. 340.
The territorial arrangements of 1763, so delicately adjusted for Europe, Asia and America, and which had been intended to secure a firm and lasting peace forever, were rudely disturbed thirteen years later by the revolt of the British North American colonies. France saw in that great event chiefly an opportunity of crippling her ancient enemy. In Spain it awakened hopes of regaining Gibraltar and of consolidating and extending her American possessions. The policy of both France and Spain was purely selfish. There was, indeed, in the former country some popular sentiment in favor of America; but neither love for British colonists nor approval of revolutionary movements, were motives which influenced in the smallest degree the cabinets of Versailles or of Madrid.
Spain was particularly reluctant to favor the American cause. It was only at the repeated and urgent solicitation of France, and after a futile attempt at mediation with England, that she consented to join in the contest. Even then, she fought solely for her own advantage, and the fear of her treachery to the common cause constantly hampered the French diplomacy. Moreover, while Spain enlisted as an enemy to Great Britain, she never became an ally of the United States. Not only did she carefully abstain from acknowledging our independence, but she was in some sense distinctly hostile, and this for reasons which were not then very clearly apprehended.
The moral influence of a successful colonial revolt was no doubt dreaded by the rulers of the nation which then possessed the greatest colonies of the world; but a far more efficient motive of hostility was the desire to perpetuate her settled commercial policy. For nearly three centuries Spain had adhered to the principle of prohibiting any trade whatever between her colonies and foreign countries. Other nations adopted a like policy, but Spain carried it to extremes. She regulated the colonial trade from the Peninsula in the minutest details. The number of ships was limited. The composition of their cargoes and the time of their sailing was prescribed. A single home port enjoyed a monopoly of the business. And all foreigners were rigidly excluded from the colonies. Japan herself was scarcely more hostile to external influence.
The inevitable result of this system was to encourage the wealth and enterprise of other nations to engage in a contraband trade with the Spanish colonies, until-like blockade-running from the Bahamas in 1864-the trade came to be conducted upon orderly principles and rose to the level of a reputable commercial business. It would have required a sincere abandonment of most cherished traditions to deal effectively with a condition of affairs in which law
breaking was made so profitable and so respectable; but of this the Spanish statesmen of that day were not capable. Instead, they regretfully temporized. Monopolies were partially given up and trade to some of the colonies was thrown open by degrees to all Spanish merchants. But even as late as 1778 the annual fleet of plate ships sailed for Vera Cruz.
Thus in 1779, when Spain at last declared war against Great Britain, the old order was passing away, although it still remained an open question whether any further concessions would be needed. The answer to that question depended upon the control of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It was only since the English had possessed the Floridas that any reforms whatever had been required, and if the English could only be excluded from those seas, it was felt in Madrid that unwelcome changes might yet be avoided. The steady growth of the contraband trade quite failed to convince the Spanish government that a permanent blockade of the coasts of two continents was impracticable. Their increasing effort was only to make it more effective, and it was believed that one important step was the acquisition of outlying foreign possessions, so as to keep foreigners at a distance both by land and sea. More and more the policy of isolation from foreign influences—spiritual, literary or mercantile-tended to become the last word of Spanish colonial statesmanship.
Florida Blanca, the Spanish prime minister, always kept these objects steadily in mind. The treaty of April 12, 1779, between France and Spain, which bound the latter to declare war against England, explicitly laid down the ends which His Catholic Majesty expected to attain by prosecuting the war. They were:
1. The restoration of Gibraltar.
2. The cession of Mobile.
3. The restoration of Pensacola and East Florida.
4. The expulsion of the English from Honduras.
5. The revocation of the privilege granted to the English of cutting dye-wood on the coast of Campeche.
6. The restoration of Minorca.
The conversion of the Gulf of Mexico into a Spanish lake was therefore the cardinal principle of the Spanish government in all dealings affecting the United States. And this principle necessarily carried with it the corollary that the Mississippi River must be closed to all foreign commerce. No such right of joint navigation as Great Britain enjoyed under the treaty of 1763 was to be tolerated. "With some degree of warmth" Florida Blanca declared to John Jay in 1780 that unless Spain could exclude all nations from