John Cabot’s Explorations

Early in the wake of those frail caravels, the Mina, Pinta and Santa Maria, came other adventurous bands of navigators. The first of these was the Venetian sailor, John Cabot, who was commissioned by Henry VII, of England, in 1497, to voyage to the new territory and take possession of it in the name of England. He discovered Newfoundland and portions adjacent. In 1500 the coast of Labrador and the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence were explored by two brothers from Portugal, named Cortereal. In 1508 Aubert discovered the St. Lawrence, and four years later, in 1512, Ponce de Leon discovered Florida. Magellan, the Portuguese navigator, passed through the straits which now bear his name in 1519, and was the first to circumnavigate the globe. In 1534 Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence as far as Montreal, and five years later Fernando de Soto explored Florida. In 1578 an English navigator named Drake discovered Upper California. Thus, in less than a century after the landing of Columbus, the different maritime powers of Europe were in active competition for the rich prizes supposed to exist in the New World.

While the Spaniards were pushing their acquisitions in the South, the French had gained a foothold in the northern part of the continent. Here the cod fisheries of Newfoundland, and the prospects of a more valuable trade in furs, opened as early as the beginning of the sixteenth century by Frenchmen, Basques, Bretons and Normans, held out the most glowing inducements. In 1518 Baron Livy settled there (Newfoundland), and in 1524 Francis I, of France, sent thither Jean Verrazzani, a noted Florentine mariner, on a voyage of exploration. He sailed along the coast 2,100 miles in the frail vessels of the period, and returned safely to his country. On his coast voyage he entered a large harbor, which is supposed to have been that of New York, where he remained fifteen days, and is believed to have been the first European to land on the soil of the State of New York. He proceeded north as far as Labrador and gave the whole region the name of New France, thus opening the way for the future contest between France and England.


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