Raleigh’s “New Fort in Virginia” 1585, English Claim
The following data is extracted from Trinity College Historical Society .
The English claim to North America, from Newfoundland to Florida, was based upon the discoveries of John and Sebastian Cabot, made under the authority of a patent granted to them by Henry VII, in March 1496, the oldest American State paper of England. It empowered them to look for and discover new lands "of infidels and pagans whatever, and wherever situated, which before that time had been unknown to all Christians." Strachey, writing of Virginia in 1618, says: "The King of Spaine hath no collour of title to this place. King Henry VII gave his letters pattents unto John Cabot, a Venetian indenized his subject, and to his three sonnes, who discovered for the King the North part of America, and annexed to the crowne of England all that great tract of land stretching from the Cape of Florida unto those parts, mayne and islands, which we call the New-found-land."
John Cabot had come from Italy to England about 1468, and settled in a suburb of Bristol, then, as now, called Cathay, from its trade with the East Indies, and here his son Sebastian was born. After the Norse Vikings no European until the Cabots had set foot on this continent. Sailing in an English ship manned chiefly with English seamen, they reached the American coast at Prima-Vista, First-seen-land, now Cape Breton, on 24th June 1497, before either Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci had discovered the mainland. They planted a cross upon the shore, and the meteor flag of England is the first that was unfurled on the continent. Coasting for many leagues along what came to be called La Tierra de las Baccalaos, or Codfish-land, later Labrador, which they thought to be the territory of the Grand Khan in Asia, they returned to England at the end of summer, and Henry, swayed possibly by his unkingly passion of avarice, gave ten pounds to the adventurers who presented him with a new world!
Cabot is one of the great historic names over which the caprice of Fate has striven to draw the curtain of oblivion. While the name of Columbus is rightly found everywhere in America, and that of Vespucci---who first crossed the Atlantic when Sebastian Cabot was making his third voyage from England-has been given to the whole Western hemisphere, no river or mountain, bay or promontory bears the name of Cabot. Yet a recent writer, Brownson, on contrasting the results to the world of the English and Spanish explorations, says: "Columbus and Cabot looked for a land of gold and spices. Columbus found the lands rich in precious metals, and the result there have been four centuries of cruelty, slavery, and oppression, of despotism and anarchy. Cabot found a land whose only wealth was in the codfish that swarmed on its coasts; but that land became the cradle of liberty and justice, of resistance to tyranny and. oppression, the refuge of the down trodden and enslaved of every clime. The world, humanity, is better, nobler, happier, for the discovery made by Cabot; has any real benefit to mankind resulted from the lands south of us?"
The fame of the elder Cabot-whom we Anglo-Americans should learn to reverence-has been obscured by the greater glory of his son. English born and bred, Sebastian Cabot, on the death of his father, became the leader of the expedition of 1498, which was a scheme of colonization. By way of Iceland he reached the shores of Labrador, and coasted as far South as Cape Charles or Hatteras, whence from want of provisions he returned to Europe. In 1516 he discovered Hudson's Bay for England, but through the greater part of the troublous reign of Henry VIII, he was in the service of Spain, and explored for her the great Rio de la Plata in South America. Returning to England he was pensioned and honored by Edward VI. Now an old man, his restless activity was unabated, and the English voyages in the middle of the sixteenth century were due to Cabot's initiative.
In his fatal expedition to the Arctic seas in 1553, Sir Hugh Willoughby took with 'him Cabot's instructions for the voyage, which are most interesting as showing alike his wisdom and skill in seamanship, and his deeply religious character. In them the mariner's logbook is first instituted, and minute directions are given with regard to every detail of the art of navigation. The morning and evening prayer of the Church of England are ordered to be read on every ship daily, and the sailors are enjoined always to act "for dutie and conscience sake towards God, under whose mercifull hand navigants above all other creatures naturally bee most nigh and nicine."
Source: Trinity College Historical Society