Sebastian Cabot (explorer)
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Sebastian Cabot was born to Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), also an explorer variously credited with Genoese or Gaetan origins, and Mattea. He told Englishman Richard Eden that he was born in Bristol and carried to Venice at four years of age; however, he also told the Venetian ambassador at the court of Charles V, Gasparo Contarini, who noted it in his diary, that he was Venetian, educated in England. He may have sailed with his father in the service of England, in May 1497. John Cabot, sailing from Bristol, took the small ship Matthew along the coasts of a "New Found Land". There is much controversy over where exactly Cabot landed, but two likely locations that are often suggested are Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Cabot and his crew mistook this place for China, without finding the passage to the east they were looking for.
Early employment with England and Spain 
In 1504 Sebastian Cabot led a voyage from Bristol to the New World, which involved two ships: the Jesus of Bristol and the Gabriel of Bristol. These were mastered by Richard Savery and Philip Ketyner and fitted out by Robert Thorne and Hugh Elyot. A certain amount of salted fish was brought back, which suggests the voyage was at least partially commercial. On the other hand, it is also clear that Sebastian had engaged in some genuine exploration, since sometime before 3 April 1505 he was awarded by King Henry VII for services 'doon vnto vs in and aboute the fyndynge of the new found lands'.
In 1508-09 Sebastian Cabot followed in his father's footsteps by leading one of the first expeditions to find a North-West passage, and indeed claimed to have found one, but was forced to turn back by his crew. He may have found the entrance to Hudson's Bay.
By 1512 Sebastian was certainly employed by Henry VIII as a cartographer at Greenwich. In the same year he accompanied the Marquess of Dorset's expedition to Spain, where he was made captain by Ferdinand V. After Ferdinand's death he returned to England. In 1516, Cabot and Sir Thomas Pert, then Vice Admiral of England, sailed in two ships to explore the coasts of Brazil and the West Indies for Henry VIII. After coming under artillery fire at Hispaniola, the expedition withdrew and returned to England reportedly because of Pert's faint-heartedness. Subsequently, Cabot moved to Spain due to greater support for explorations by the Spanish king. In 1522, although once more in the employ of Spain as a member of the Council of the Indies and holding the rank of pilot-major, he secretly offered his services to Venice, undertaking to find the Northwest Passage to China.
Voyages to America 
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Cabot finally received the rank of captain general from Spain, and was entrusted on March 4, 1525, with the command of a fleet which was to determine from astronomical observation the precise demarcation of the Treaty of Tordesillas and then to convey settlers to the Moluccas, in order to strengthen Spanish claims there. It was officially noted as an expedition "for the discovery of Tharsis, Ophir, and Eastern Cathay." This expedition consisted of four ships with 200 men, and set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda on April 3, 1526.
This voyage might have resulted in a second circumnavigation of the world. Upon landing in Brazil, however, rumors of the wealth of the Incan king and the nearly-successful invasion of Aleixo Garcia caused Cabot to abandon his charge and instead further explore the interior of the Río de la Plata.
Cabot had already earned the disapproval of his crew by stranding the fleet in the doldrums and running the flagship aground off Santa Catarina Island. His decision regarding the Río de la Plata led to open resistance from Martin Méndez (his lieutenant general), Miguel de Rodas (pilot of the capitana), and Francisco de Rojas (the captain of one of the other vessels). He dealt with the mutiny by marooning them and other officers on Santa Catarina Island.
He then traveled into the Río de la Plata and spent five months exploring the estuary. He established a fort called San Salvador at the confluence of the Uruguay and the Río San Salvador. This was the first Spanish settlement in modern-day Uruguay.
Leaving the two larger ships there, he sailed up the Paraná in the brigantine and a galley constructed at Santa Catarina. His party constructed a small fort called Santo or Espíritu Santo at the confluence of the Paraná and the Río Carcarañá. This was the first Spanish settlement in present-day Argentina; the town of Cabot was later constructed nearby and named in his honor. Losing 18 men to an ambush, he returned to San Salvador, passing Diego García's expedition as he went.
Cabot sent one ship back to Spain, with his reports, accusations against the mutineers, and requests for further aid. In the spring of 1529, he returned upriver to Espíritu Santo, which he discovered had been overwhelmed and burnt by the Indians during his absence. He recovered the cannon and returned to San Salvador.
At a council on 6 August 1529, it was decided to return to Spain. Cabot sailed with García to São Vicente. Purchasing 50 slaves there, he coasted Brazil and arrived in Seville on 22 July 1530, returning home with one ship and 24 men.
He was arraigned on charges from the Crown, Rojas, and by the families of Rodas and Méndez. He was condemned by the Council of the Indies on charges of disobedience, misadministration, and causing the death of officers under his command and sentenced to heavy fines and a two-year banishment to Oran in North Africa. His banishment was later doubled.
During these proceedings, however, the Emperor had been absent in Germany. Upon his return, Cabot presented him with descriptions of the region. Although no pardon is recorded and the fines were still paid, it is known that Cabot never went into exile and was pilot-major of Spain until 1547, when without losing either the title or the pension, he left Spain and returned to England, where he received a salary with the title of great navigator.
Later life 
In the year 1553 Cabot discussed a voyage to China and re-joining the service of Charles V with his ambassador in England, Jean Scheyfve. In the meantime Cabot had reopened negotiations with Venice, but he reached no agreement with that city. After this he aided both with information and advice the Muscovy Company expedition of Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor, he was made life-governor of the "Company of Merchant Adventurers", and equipped (1557) the expedition of Steven Borough.
Accounts of journeys 
The account of Cabots journeys written by himself has been lost. All that remains of his personal work is a map of the world drawn in 1544; one copy of this was found in Bavaria, and is still preserved in the Bibliothèque National in Paris. This map is especially important for the light it throws on the first journey of John Cabot. The accounts of the journeys of John and Sebastian Cabot were collected by Richard Hakluyt.
From the later sixteenth century until the mid-nineteenth century it was generally supposed that it was Sebastian, rather than his father John, who led the famous Bristol expeditions of the later 1490s, which resulted in the discovery, or rediscovery, of North America. This error seems to have been of Sebastian's own making, being based on what he told people in his old age. The result was that the influential geographical writer Richard Hakluyt represented John as a mere figurehead for the expeditions and suggested that Sebastian actually led them. When new archival finds in the nineteenth century demonstrated that this was not the case, Sebastian became something of a 'hate' figure - disparaged by Henry Harrisse, in particular, as a man who willfully appropriated his father's achievements and represented them as his own. Because of this, Sebastian received much less attention in the twentieth century - even though other finds demonstrate that he did, for instance, lead some genuine exploratory voyages from Bristol in the first decade of the sixteenth century.
Memorials to Sebastian Cabot 
- A nineteenth-century bronze relief in the Houses of Parliament.
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Dictionary of Canadian Biography at Google Books
- Appleton's American Biography
- Encyclopaedia Britannica Sebastian Cabot
- Catholic Encyclopedia "John & Sebastian Cabot"
Further reading 
- A.A. Ruddock, 'The reputation of Sebastian Cabot', Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 42 (1974) pp. 95-9.
- Thomas Southey, "Chronological History of the West Indies", Longman, et al., (1827) p. 127
- Sir Harry Johnston, "Pioneers in Tropical America", Read Books, 2006, p. 101 ISBN 1-4067-2269-3
- Robert Kerr, A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, W. Blackwood, 1824, pp. 11–12
- William Goldsmith, The Naval History of Great Britain from the Earliest Period, J. Jaques, 1825, p. 51
- Royall, Tyler, ed., Calendar State Papers Spanish, vol. 11 (1916), pp. 30–32, 38–39.
- Wright, Helen Saunders (1910). The great white North: the story of polar exploration from the earliest times to the discovery of the Pole. The Macmillan Company. p. 6.
- Peter Pope, The Many Landfalls of John Cabot (University of Toronto Press, 1997), pp. 58-64.
- Henry Harrisse, John Cabot, the Discoverer of North-America and Sebastian, his Son (London, 1896), pp. 115-25.
- A.A. Ruddock, 'The reputation of Sebastian Cabot', Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 42 (1974).
- William Theed (the Younger), 'Sebastian Cabot before Henry VII'