| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
 But what was England about all this time? No more then,
than now, was she the nation to sit quietly by and see
another country carry off a prize.
England was soon awake to the possibilities of the new
world. She, too, sent out explorers and set up her claims
of possession. Among those who set forth were John Cabot
and his son, Sebastian, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir Walter
It was in 1497 that the Cabots set sail.
 Sebastian Cabot had lived in his boyhood days
in Venice, the beautiful city built so many
years ago on little islands off the coast of
Italy. The streets of this city are water,
and the people ride up and down the streets
in boats called gondolas,
just as in our cities
we ride up and down the streets in carriages.
It must have
been here that Sebastian grew to love the sea; for to the
Venetian boy a gondola is what a bicycle is to you.
Sebastian used often to say, "I think sometimes I am
more at home on the water than I am on land; and to go
back to my boat is the rest to me that going on land is to
Now, when reports of the discoveries of Columbus began
to attract the English people, the Cabots were inspired
with a new zeal for exploration; and, in 1497,
fitting out the good ship "Matthew," away they
went, the English
 king, Henry VII., having given them permission to sail to
all parts of the seas and countries of the East and to take
possession of all lands they might visit. Generous king
indeed, to give away lands that he had never seen and that
he was by no means sure were on the face of the globe!
"We believe," said the Cabots,
"that there is a shorter
Northwest Passage by which we may sail to India, and we will
go in search of it."
Ah, that Northwest Passage! It has proved a sort of
Will-o-the-Wisp to sailors ever since;
for every now and then, all along the years
since 1497, some adventurous
seaman has thought he was the man born to find the
wonderful short route. But, alas, it was never found, and
the fate of the sailors has always been much the same. If
they have lived to return at all, it has always been with
 the same sad story of wretched suffering from
starvation and cold.
The Cabots met with little success on this first voyage, but
in the following year, 1498, Sebastian Cabot, for his
father was now dead, sailed out for the second time on a
voyage of discovery, this time full of courage. "We only
learned our way about the strange waters on our first
voyage," said he, "but this time
we shall bring back reports of discovery."
Sailing off towards Iceland, he went on towards Labrador.
Here he reports that he passed that island and found
the sea so full of codfish as "truly to hinder the sailing
of the ships." Salmon, too, came swimming down the
rivers in enormous numbers, and bears flocked at the water
sides to catch and eat them. There were no fishery bills
in those days, and the American bears and the
 English sailors fished side by side with not a thought of
Sailing on southward, Cabot discovered, to his great
astonishment, that the coast was continuous for miles and
miles, from Labrador to Florida!
"This is not India," said he, "it
is a continent, a New
Found Land, lying somewhere between Europe and India."
And so, while we remember that it was Columbus'
daring that set all this zeal for search into motion and
brought about all these wonderful
discoveries and opened up to Europe the grand New World,
give to the Cabots the lesser honor—but the honor due
them—of being the first to bring back the report that
out beyond the waters lay a new continent—a New Found Land.
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