BLTC Press Titles


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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh


Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller


Lives of Baron Steuben, Sebastian Cabot, and William Eaton

by Francis Bowen

Excerpt:

Cabot explores the La Plata. Quarrel between the Followers of Cabot and Garcia.

Capture of Sanctus Spiritus. The Adventurers return to Spain.

No one would have been surprised, had the smothered flame of mutiny, which every arrangement must have tended to cherish, broken out the very day of leaving the shore. That event was reserved for a later period. The testimony of personal friends, as well as his public life, gives us a high idea of Cabot's gentleness of character. His companions always speak of him with affection, and few instances of his harshness or severity are recorded. Of firmness, in time of danger, we shall see he was not destitute. His ambition was indulged for the public good. Had he been more mindful of himself, he would have escaped many disappointments, and enjoyed more renown.

He first sailed to the Canaries,* and thence to the Cape de Verd Islands, touching at both, jt is probable, to replenish the stock of provisions, and committing no such outrages as his enemies have represented. The Islanders were uniformly kind to him, and injury in return would have been unnecessary and impolitic. Cape St. Augustine was their next stopping-place, from which they laid their course to the south. But the voyage was not thus far accomplished without trouble; for the three secret traitors were much confirmed by the extraordinary arrangements of the deputies to provide for the Captain-general's losing the command.

Cunning men in power may always find causes of dissatisfaction; and Martin Mendez and the brothers Rojas soon began to complain, that Cabot did not strive to allay the disputes which had arisen at Seville. They tried to convince the sailors, that he had laid in no adequate store of provisions, or, at any rate, that he secreted them in his own

* Lives of the Admirals, Vol. I. p. 409.

vessel from general distribution. Mendez desired his partisans, if they were true men, to withstand oppression, and depose a tyrant in favor of honest officers. The plans of revolt were originated and matured by these reckless mariners in utter secrecy. At length the time came, which was agreed on for active resistance.

As the squadron was running down the coast of Brazil, these men became openly insolent in blaming the movements of their commander, exhorting the crews, who naturally partook of the excitement, to avail themselves promptly of the privileges of the sealed orders. Cabot's situation was a critical one; but two of his countrymen were in the expedition, and he heard all around him insinuations of foreign usurpation, and that he was raised by favor to govern a people whom he had never materially served. As his three highest officers were inimical, he saw that he must rely solely on himself. The band which rallied around Mendez, he was well aware, hoped to intimidate him by numbers, and were not prepared for decisive resistance; accordingly, without the scruples of a weaker man, and with no attempt at a compromise, he ordered Martin Mendez and Miguel and Francisco de Rojas to be seized, (taking the latter from his ship without ceremony,) and, placing them with two faithful seamen in an open boat, he put them on shore at the nearest island. This degrading treatment of men so lately glorying in their superiority was never forgotten; and years afterward we find them employing their malice against their energetic commander.

The measure was entirely successful in quelling further mutiny. But as the Captain-general had lost his highest officers, he felt unauthorized, without special permission, to prosecute the original enterprise, and, as the best expedient, directed his course to the mouth of the La Plata. It is probable, that he intended to make this river merely a temporary stopping-place. It proved, however, the scene of much wild adventure. In fact, we have now reached the most romantic period in Cabot's life. In addition to being deprived of his officers, he lost one of his vessels by shipwreck, which deterred him altogether from prosecuting the voyage. He resolved, with his usual activity of mind, to renew the attempt to explore the La Plata; in making which, his predecessor in the office of Pilot-Major, Diego de Solis, had perished. This course, under existing circumstances, was probably the best; certainly he was right in waiting further commands from the Emperor. The next five years did much to unfold his character, prove his skill, and mature his judgment. His predecessor, it must be remembered, with a body of fifty men, had been inhumanly butchered, and actually devoured by the people among whom he was thrown.


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