Sebastian Cabot (c. 1484 – 1557, or soon after), originally Sebastiano Caboto, was an Italian explorer, born probably in Venice. Sebastian Cabot told Englishman Richard Eden that he was born in Bristol and carried to Venice at four years of age. However, he also told Gasparo Contarini, the Venetian ambassador at the court of Charles V that he was Venetian, educated in England. Contarini noted it in his diary.
Voyage to Newfoundland
He may have sailed with his father John Cabot (who is variously credited with Genoese, Venetian or Gaetan origins), in the service of England, in May, 1497. John Cabot and perhaps Sebastian, sailing from Bristol, took their small fleet along the coasts of a "New Found Land". There is much controversy over where exactly Cabot landed, but two likely locations that are often suggested are Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Cabot and his crew (including perhaps Sebastian) mistook this place for China, without finding the passage to the east they were looking for. Some scholars maintain that the name America comes from Richard Amerik, a Bristol merchant and customs officer, who is claimed on very slender evidence to have helped finance the Cabot voyages.
Early employment with England and Spain
By 1512 Sebastian was certainly employed by Henry VIII as a cartographer at Greenwich. In the same year he accompanied Willoughby to Spain, where he was made captain by Ferdinand V. After Ferdinand's death he returned to England, where, in 1517, he tried fruitlessly to win the support of Vice-Admiral Perte for a new expedition. In 1522, although once more in the employ of Spain as a member of the "Council of the Indies" and holding the rank of pilot-major, he secretly offered his services to Venice, undertaking to find the Northwest Passage to China.
Voyages to America
Finally, he received the rank of captain general from Spain, and was entrusted on March 4, 1525, with the command of a fleet which was to find Tarshish, Ophir, and Cathay, along with a new route to the Moluccas. The expedition consisted of three ships with 150 men, and set sail from Cádiz on April 5, 1526, but only went as far as the mouth of the Río de la Plata.
Cabot went ashore and left behind his companions, Francisco de Rojas, Martin Méndez, and Miguel de Rodas, with whom he had quarrelled. He explored the Paraná River as far as its junction with the Paraguay and built two forts. The first one, called Sancti Spiritu, was the first Spanish settlement in present-day Argentina; near its former location lies the town of Gaboto (Santa Fe Province), named after the explorer.
In August 1530, Cabot returned to Spain, where he was at once indicted for his conduct towards his fellow commanders and his lack of success, and was banished as of February 1, 1532 to Oran in Morocco. After a year, he was pardoned and went to Seville; he remained pilot-major of Spain until 1547, when without losing either the title or the pension, he left Spain and returned to England, where he received a salary with the title of great pilot.
In the year 1553 Charles V made unsuccessful attempts to win him back. In the meantime Cabot had reopened negotiations with Venice, but he reached no agreement with that city. After this he aided both with information and advice the expedition of Willoughby and Chancellor, was made life-governor of the "Company of Merchant Adventurers", and equipped (1557) the expedition of Borough. After this, nothing more is heard of him; he probably died soon afterwards.
Accounts of journeys
The account of Cabot's journeys written by himself has been lost. All that remains of his personal work is a map of
the world drawn in 1544; one copy of this was found in Bavaria, and is still preserved in the Bibliotheque National in Paris. This map is especially important for the light it throws on the first journey of John Cabot. The accounts of the journeys of John and Sebastian Cabot were collected by Richard Hakluyt.