History Timeline 1490s

Above: Explorer John Cabot. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Right: Painting Christopher Columbus taking possession of San Salvador, Watling Island by L Prang and Co., 1893. Images courtesy Library of Congress.


Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1400s

Columbus and Cabot

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  • Timeline

  • 1498 - Detail

    May 1498 - Cabot undertakes another voyage to the New World under his English papers. It is unknown whether Cabot returned from this voyage and various reports state that his ships were lost at sea. Recent research suggests a second theory, that his ships did return to England after a two year exploration of the coastline of Canada and the United States, even down into the Spanish claimed territories of Columbus in the Caribbean.

    John Giovanni Cabot

    With Cabot's second journey to the New World proving more sucessful than the first voyage in 1496, it should come as no surprise that the explorer would be commissioned by the English King Henry VII to take a third. He had traveled to London to meet with the King after his arrival back from the 1497 second voyage on August 6. Four days later, on August 10, 1497, Cabot was given a L10 reward, equal to several years pay for a craftsman of the time. Cabot was convinced that he had found a shorter route to Asia, and that the silks and spices that he had not located yet, would not be far away.

    Several months would pass, however, before a third voyage could be planned. There was concern about the King's standing on the throne with an uprising in Cornish, but once that scuffle had been settled, Cabot was again on the agenda. By September 26, King Henry VII gave him an additional L2, then in December was awarded a pension, L20 per year, that suggested he was at the beckon of the King for additional tasks.

    Papers for the third journey were awarded on February 3, 1498.

    Letters of Patent for Cabot's Third Journey, 1498

    The Letters Patents of King Henry the Seventh Granted unto Iohn Cabot and his Three Sonnes, Lewis, Sebastian and Sancius for the the Discouerie of New and Unknowen Lands.

    Henry, by the grace of God, king of England and France, and lord of Ireland, to all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting.

    Be it knowen that we haue giuen and granted, and by these presents do giue and grant for vs and our heiress to our welbeloued Iohn Cabot citizen of Venice, to Lewis, Sebastian, and Santius, sonnes of the sayd Iohn, and to the heires of them, and euery of them, and their deputies, full and free authority, leaue, and power to saile to all parts, countreys, and seas of the East, of the West, and of the North, vnder our banners and ensignes, with fine ships of what burthen or quantity soeuer they be, and as many mariners or men as they will haue with them in the sayd ships, vpon their owne proper costs and charges, to seeke out, discouer, and finde whatsoever isles, countreys, regions or prouinces of the heathen and infidels whatsoeuer they be, and in what part of the world soeuer they be, which before this time haue bene vnknowen to all Christians: we haue granted to them, and also to euery of them, the heires of them, and euery of them, and their deputies, and haue giuen them licence to set vp our banners and ensignes in euery village, towns, castle, isle, or maine land of them newly found. And'that the aforesayd Iohn and his sonnes, or their heires and assignee may subdue, occupy and possesse all such townes, cities, castles and isles of them found, which they can subdue, occupy and possesse, as our vassals, and lieutenants, getting vnto vs the rule, title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, townes, castles, & firme land so found. Yet so that the aforesayd Iohn, and his sonnes and heires, and their deputies, be holden and bounder of all the fruits, profits, gaines, and commodities growing of such navigation, for euery their voyage, as often as they shall arrine at our port of Bristoll (at the which port they shall be bound and holden onely to arrine) all maner of necessary costs and charges by them made, being deducted, to pay vnto vs in wares or money the lift part of the capital! gaine so gotten. We gluing and granting vnto them and to their heires and deputies, that they shall be free from all paying of customer of all and singular such merchandise as they shall be free from all paying of customes of all and singular they shall bring with them from those places so newlie found.

    And moreover, we haue giuen and granted to them, their heires and deputies, that all the firme lands, isles, villages, townes, castles and places whatsoever they be that they shall chance to finde, may not of any other of our subjects be frequented or visited without the licence of the foresayd John and his sonnes, and their deputies, vnder payee of forfeiture as well of their ships as of all and singular goods of all them that shall presume to saile to those places so found. Willing, and most straightly commanding all and singular our subjects as well on land as on sea, appointed officers, to giue good assistance to the aforesaid John, and his sonnes and deputies, and that as well in arming and furnishing their ships or vessels, as in provision of quietnesse, and in buying of victuals for their money, and all other things by them to be provided necessary for the sayd naulgation, they do gine them all their helpe and fanour. In witnesse whereof we haue caused to be made these our lettres patents. Witnesse our selfe at Westminister, the fift day of March, In the eleventh yeere of our reigne.-

    SECOND CABOT PATENT, Letters Patent. February 3, 1498.

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    The Third Voyage

    Five ships under John Cabot left Bristol in May 1498. Accompanying him, through various records, were Lancelot Thirkill, Thomas Bradley and John Cair, as well as three hundred other men and goods to trade. By July, it was reported problems with one ship off the coast of Ireland. The expedition continued with four. There are reports that his intent was to go south into the tropics upon reaching the New World. And this is where it becomes hazy.

    There is no evidence of what Giovanni Cabot did on the expedition and no true evidence that he returned. By September of 1498, there had been no reports about the expedition or a return. The only evidence of a possible return was a record of Lancelot Thirkill living in London in 1501, but it is possible that Thirkill did not make the journey in the first place.

    Some historians note, including Alwyn Ruddock, that Giovanni Cabot did return in 1500 after a two year journey, traveling to the Chesapeake Bay and possibly to the Caribbean islands where Columbus was setting up his Spanish colonies. This work is based on maps by cartographer Juan de la Casa. Additional work to substantiate Ruddock's claims are ongoing. We just don't know which version of the truth is accurate, whether Cabot's four ships were lost at sea, or whether he returned.

    Photo above: Montage of two images, (left) John Cabot and Sons receiving patent in 1496 for voyages from King Henry VII, 1910, Denis William Eden. Courtesy Parliament.uk via Wikipedia Commons. (right) Cabot Tower, Signal Hall, St. John's, Newfoundland, 2017. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Discovery of North America engraving showing John and Sebastian Cabot, 1855, Ballou's Pictorial, Volume 8, Page 216. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: Avalon Project, Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis Newton Thorpe, Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909; The Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery Under Henry VII, James A. Williamson, 1962; Cabot Project, Department of History, University of Bristol; heritagenf.ca; John Cabot Database, johncabotdatabase.weebly.com; Wikipedia Commons.

    John Giovanni Cabot and Sebastian Cabot

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