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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 known that we have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant for us and our heirs, to our well-beloved John Cabot citizen of Venice, to Lewis, Sebastian, and Santius, sons of the said John, and to the heirs of them, and every (one) of them, and their deputies, full and free authority, leave, and power to sail to all parts, countries, and seas of the east, of the west, and of the north, under our banners and ensigns, with five ships of what burden or quantity soever they be, and as many mariners or men asthey will have with them in the said ships, upon their own proper costs and charges, to seek out, discover, and find whatsoever isles, countries, regions or provinces of the heathen and infidels whatsoever they be, and in what part of the world soever they be, which before this time have been unknown to all Christians: we have granted to them, and also to every of them, the heirs of them, and every of them, and their deputies, and have given them license to set up our banners and ensigns in every village, town, castle, isle, or mainland of them newly found. And that the aforesaid John and his sons, or their heirs and assigns may subdue, occupy and possess all such towns, cities, castles and isles of them found, which they can subdue, occupy and possess, as our vassals, and lieutenants, getting unto us the rule, title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, towns, castles, and firm land so found. Yet so that the aforesaid John, and his sons and heirs, and their deputies, be held and bound of all the fruits, profits, gains, and commodities growing of such navigation, for their every voyage, as often as they shall arrive at our port of Bristol (at the which port they shall be bound and held only to arrive) all manner of necessary costs and charges by them made, being deducted, to pay unto us in wares or money the fifth part of the capital gain so gotten. We giving and granting unto them and to their heirs and deputies, that they shall be free from all paying of customs of all and singular such merchandise as they shall bring with them from those places so newly found. And moreover, we have given and granted to them, their heirs and deputies, that all the firm lands, isles, villages, towns, castles and places whatsoever they be that they shall chance to find, may not of any other of our subjects be frequented or visited without the license of the aforesaid John and his sons, and their deputies, under pain of forfeiture as well of their ships as of all and singular goods of all them that shall presume to sail to those places so found. Willing, and most straightly commanding all and singular our subjects as well on land as on sea, to give good assistance to the aforesaid John and his sons and deputies, and that as well in arming and furnishing their ships or vessels, as in provision of food, and in buying of victuals for their money, and all other things by them to be provided necessary for the said navigation, they do give them all their help and favor. In witness whereof we have caused to be made these our Letters Patents. Witness ourself at Westminster the fifth day of March, in the eleventh year of our reign….


General Summary

Like Columbus, John Cabot was born in Genoa. But he and his family lived for fifteen years in Venice, and when he later moved to England he was always referred to as a Venetian. He settled in Bristol, England, about 1490.

It is very likely that John Cabot was influenced by Bartholomew Columbus, who had been sent to England some years before by his brother Christopher to see what arrangements might be made with the King of England for fitting out an expedition.

Four years after Columbus returned from his voyage of discovery Cabot sailed on his first expedition and discovered, June 24, 1497, what he supposed to be the Chinese coast, probably Labrador or Newfoundland. This was the first discovery of America under English sovereignty. Little is known about the Cabots but it is supposed that John Cabot died on his second expedition leaving in command his son Sebastian, who probably made a third voyage.

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