CABOT, JOHN (GIOVANNI CABOTO) (1450-1498), Italian navigator and explorer of North America, was born in Genoa, but in 1461 went to live in Venice, of which he became a naturalized citizen in 1476. During one of his trading voyages to the eastern Mediterranean, Cabot visited Mecca, then the greatest mart in the world for the exchange of the goods of the East for those of the West. Filled with the idea that it would be shorter and quicker to bring these goods to Europe by sea, i f a route could be found, Cabot, about 1484, removed with his family to London. His plans were explained to the leading mer chants of Bristol, from which port an extensive trade was already carried on with Iceland. It was decided that an attempt should be made to reach the "island of Brazil" or that of the "Seven Cities," placed on mediaeval maps to the west of Ireland, as the first halting-places on the route to Asia by the west.
To find these islands vessels were despatched from Bristol dur ing several years, when in 1493 news reached England that another Genoese, Christopher Columbus, had reached the Indies. It was decided to forego further search for the islands and to push straight on to Asia, and letters patent for the purpose were issued on March 5, 1496 by Henry VII., granting to his "well-beloved John Cabot, citizen of Venice, to Lewis, Sebastian and Santius, sonnes of the said John, full and free authority, leave and power upon theyr own proper costs and charges, to seeke out, discover and finde whatsoever isles, countries, regions or provinces of the heathen and infidels, which before this time have been unknown to all Christians." Merchandise from the countries visited was to be entered at Bristol free of duty, but one-fifth of the net gains was to go to the king.
Armed with these powers, Cabot set sail from Bristol on Tues day, May 2, 1497, on board a ship called the "Mathew," manned by 18 men. Rounding Ireland, they headed first north and then west. After being 52 days at sea, at five o'clock on Saturday morning, June 24, they reached the northern extremity of Cape Breton island. The royal banner was unfurled, and Cabot took possession of the country in the name of King Henry VII. The soil being found fertile and the climate temperate, Cabot was convinced he had reached the north-eastern coast of Asia, whence came the silks and precious stones he had seen at Mecca. Cape North was named Cape Discovery, and as the day was the festival of St. John the Baptist, St. Paul island, which lies opposite, was called the island of St. John. Sailing north, Cabot named Cape Ray, St. George's Cape, and christened St. Pierre and Miquelon, which then with Langley formed three separate islands, the Trinity group. Cape Race, the last land seen, was named Eng land's Cape. On Sunday, Aug. 6, the "Mathew" dropped anchor once more in Bristol harbour. On Aug. 10 Cabot received from the king £ I O for having "found the new isle." He reported that 700 leagues beyond Ireland he had reached the country of the Grand Khan. He intended on his next voyage to follow the coast southward as far as Cipangu or Japan, then placed near the equator. Once Cipangu had been reached London would become a greater centre for spices than Alexandria. Henry VII. granted Cabot a pension of £ 20, and promised him in the spring a fleet of ten ships with which to sail to Cipangu.
On Feb. 3, 1498, fresh letters patent were issued. Henry VII. himself also advanced considerable sums of money to various members of the expedition. In the spring Cabot visited Lisbon and Seville, to secure the services of men who had sailed along the African coast with Cam and Diaz or to the Indies with Columbus. At Lisbon he met a certain Joao Fernandes, called Llavrador, who about the year 1492 appears to have made his way from Iceland to Greenland. Cabot, on learning from Fer nandes that part of Asia, as they supposed Greenland to be, lay so near Iceland, determined to return by way of this country. On reaching Bristol he laid his plans accordingly. Early in May the expedition, which consisted of two ships and 30o men, left Bristol. Several vessels in the habit of trading to Iceland accom panied them. Off Ireland a storm forced one of these to return, but the rest of the fleet proceeded on its way along the parallel of 58°. Each day the ships were carried northward by the Gulf Stream. Early in June Cabot reached the east coast of Green land, and as Fernandes was the first who had told him of this country he named it the Labrador's Land.
In the hope of finding a passage Cabot proceeded northward along the coast. As he advanced, the cold became more intense and the icebergs thicker and larger. It was also noticed that the land trended eastward. On June II, in lat. 67° 3o' the crews mutinied, and refused to proceed farther in that direction. Cabot had no alternative but to put his ships about. Rounding Cape Farewell, he explored the southern coast of Greenland and then made his way a certain distance up the west coast. Here again his progress was checked by icebergs, whereupon a course was set towards the west. Crossing Davis strait, Cabot reached our modern Baffin Land in 66°. Judging this to be the Asiatic main land, he set off southward in search of Cipangu. South of Hudson strait a little bartering was done with the Indians, but these could offer nothing in exchange but furs. Our strait of Belle Isle was mistaken for an ordinary bay, and Newfoundland was regarded by Cabot as the main shore itself. Rounding Cape Race, he visited the region explored before and then followed the coast as far south as the 38th parallel, when the absence of all signs of eastern civilization and the low state of his stores forced him to abandon all hope of reaching Cipangu on this voyage. Ac cordingly, a course was set for England, where they arrived safely late in the autumn of 1498. Not long after his return John Cabot died.
His son, SEBASTIAN CABOT (c. 1476-1557), is not independently heard of until May 1512, when he was paid 20 shillings "for mak ing a Garde of Gascoigne and Guyenne," whither he accompanied the English army sent that year by Henry VIII. to aid his father in-law Ferdinand of Aragon against the French. Sebastian was questioned about the Newfoundland coast by Ferdinand's coun cillors, and as a result was appointed a captain in the navy at a salary of 5o,000 maravedis a year. Preparations were made for him to set sail in March 1516; but the death of the king in January of that year put an end to the undertaking. His services were retained by Charles V., and on Feb. 5, 1518, Cabot was named Pilot Major and official examiner of pilots.
In the winter of 152o-21 Sebastian Cabot returned to England, and while there was offered by Wolsey the command of five vessels which Henry VIII. intended to despatch to Newfound land. Being reproached by a fellow Venetian with having done nothing for his own country, Cabot refused, and on reaching Spain secretly negotiated with the Council of Ten at Venice. On March 4, 1525 he was appointed commander of an expedition fitted out at Seville, "to discover the Moluccas, Tarsis, Ophir, Cipango and Cathay." The three vessels set sail in April, and by June were off the coast of Brazil and on their way to the Straits of Magellan. Near the La Plata river Cabot found three Spaniards who had formed part of the De Solis expedition of 1515. These men gave such glowing accounts of the riches of the country that Cabot was induced to forego the search for Tarsis and Ophir and to enter the La Plata, which was reached in Feb. 1527. On reaching Seville in Aug. 153o, Cabot was condemned to four years' banishment to Oran in Africa, but in June 1533 he was once more reinstated in his former post of Pilot Major, which he continued to fill until he again removed to England.
As early as 1538 Cabot tried to obtain employment under Henry VIII., and it is possible he was the Sevillian pilot who was brought to London by the king in 1541. Soon after the ac cession of Edward VI., however, his friends induced the Privy Council to advance money for his removal to England, and on Jan. 5, the king granted him a pension of f 166.13s.4d. Two applications from Spain (in 155o and 1553), for his re patriation were refused, the first by the privy council and the second by Queen Mary herself.
On June 26, 155o Cabot received £200 "by waie of the kinges Majesties rewarde," but it is not clear whether this was for his services in putting down the privileges of the German Merchants of the Steelyard or for founding the company of Merchant Ad venturers incorporated on Dec. 18, 1551. Of this company Cabot was made governor for life. Three ships were sent out in May 1553 to search for a passage to the East by the north-east. Two of the vessels were caught in the ice near Arzina and the crews frozen to death. Chancellor's vessel alone reached the White Sea, whence her captain made his way overland to Moscow. He returned to England in the summer of 1554 and was the means of opening up a very considerable trade with Russia. Vessels were again despatched to Russia in 1555 and 1556. On the arrival of King Philip II. in England Cabot's pension was stopped on May 26, 1557, but three days later Mary had it renewed. The date of Cabot's death has not been definitely discovered. It is supposed that he died within the year.