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[10] won the admiration which was due to greatness
Chap. I.} 1496.
that seemed more divine than human; and ‘there was great talk of it in all the court of Henry the Seventh.’ A feeling of disappointment remained, that a series of disasters had defeated the wish of the illustrious Genoese to make his first great voyage under the flag of England. It was, therefore, not difficult for John Cabot, a Venetian, then residing at Bristol, to interest that politic king in plans for discovery. On the fifth of March, 1496, he obtained under the great seal a commission, empowering himself and his three sons, or either of them, their heirs, or their deputies, to sail into the eastern, western, or northern sea, with a, fleet of five ships, at their own expense, in search of islands, provinces, or regions, hitherto unseen by Christian people; to affix the banners of England on city, island, or continent; and as vassals of the English crown, to possess and occupy the territories that might be found. It was further stipulated in this ‘most ancient American state paper of England,’ that the patentees should be strictly bound, on every return, to land at the port of Bristol, and to pay to the king one-fifth part of their gains; while the exclusive right of frequenting all the countries that might be found, was reserved to them and to their assigns, unconditionally and without limit of time.

Under this patent, which, at the first direction of

English enterprise towards America, embodied the worst features of monopoly and commercial restriction, John Cabot, taking with him his son Sebastian, embarked in quest of new islands and a passage to Asia by the north-west. After sailing prosperously, as he thought, for seven hundred leagues, on the twenty-fourth day of June, 1497, early in the morning, almost fourteen months before Columbus on his

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