Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/69

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fifty years later, when the Portuguese dominion seemed absolutely safe from attack, that they were at length removed to Lisbon. During these fifty years the main features of his scheme had been carried out. Unmolested access to all the trading stations in the Far East was obtained, and of many the Portuguese were in uncontrolled possession. In other places they shared the trade with those whom they had hoped to expel. Albuquerque's scheme for seizing and holding the Red Sea was abandoned : and the culmination of the Portuguese successes in the East was followed by the rapid decline of their power. We must now recur to the situation of other European powers at the time of Dom Manoel's succession to the throne in 1495.

Not merely were the Spaniards by this time actively preparing for the exploration and effective occupation of their newly acquired transatlantic islands; but Englishmen, who had so long been prosecuting westward discovery, and whose king, Henry VII, had barely missed the prize which had fallen to the lot of Spain, now bestirred themselves once more. Bristol was at this time one of the most considerable ports in Europe; its merchants and seamen vied with those of Genoa and Venice, and skilled navigators from those great ports here found ready employment. Doubtless in 1495, or earlier, the news of Colombo's success in a quest which Bristol men had long made an interest of their own roused its merchants to activity; and John Cabot, a citizen of Venice, though of Genoese extraction, became the chosen instrument of their designs. Cabot's three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sanctus, had apparently all been educated to his own calling; and on March 5, 1496, Henry VII granted a petition preferred by the father and sons, praying the sanction of the Crown to a voyage contemplated by them in search of unknown countries, understood or believed to exist beyond the ocean in northern latitudes. Having regard to the large commerce carried on between Bristol and Iceland, and to the continuity of Icelandic tradition, embodied in the Sagas, we entertain no doubt that the intention was to seek the "New Land," "New Isle," or "Vineland" of the Northmen ; and this conclusion is borne out by the course actually taken when the voyage was begun. Pursuant to this petition, still preserved in the Public Record Office, the Privy Seal was on the same day affixed to the first charter authorising its holders to hoist the English flag on shores hitherto unknown to Christian people, and to acquire the sovereignty of them for the English Crown. This charter, and the voyage made pursuant to it, were put forward in a later generation, and are still sometimes regarded, as the root of England's title to her American possessions; and the date of the letters patent (March 5, 1496) has not ineptly been styled the birthday of the British Empire. It is stipulated that the grantees, who are authorised to enter the Northern, Western, and Eastern seas, but not the Southern, shall after each voyage return to the port of Bristol; that they shall then and