The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol


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First Letters Patent granted by Henry VII to John Cabot , 5 March 1496

Source: H.B. Biggar (ed.), The Precursors of Jacques Cartier, 1497-1534 (Ottawa, 1911), pp. 8-10. Latin text first printed by Hakluyt in 1582.
Manuscript: National Archives PRO, Treaty Roll 178, membr. 8.
Web version by: Sam Cronin (2004)

For John Cabot and his Sons

The King, to all to whom, etc. Greeting: Be it known and
made manifest that we have given and granted as by these
presents we give and grant, for us and our heirs, to our well-
beloved John Cabot, citizen of Venice, and to Lewis, Sebastian
and Sancio, sons of the said John, and to the heirs and
deputies of them, and of any one of them, full and free
authority, faculty and power to sail to all parts, regions and
coasts of the eastern, western and northern sea, under our
banners, flags and ensigns, with five ships or vessels of whatso-
ever burden and quality they may be, and with so many and
with such mariners and men as they may wish to take with them in
the said ships, at their own proper costs and charges, to find,
discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions
or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the
world placed, which before this time were unknown to all
Christians. We have also granted to them and to any one of them,
and have given licence to set up our aforesaid banners and
ensigns in any town, city, castle, island or mainland whatso-
ever, newly found by them. And that the before-mentioned
John and his sons or their heirs and deputies may conquer,
occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and
islands by them thus discovered that they may be able to
conquer, occupy and possess, as our vassals and governors
lieutenants and deputies therein, acquiring for us the dominion,
title and jurisdiction of the same towns, castles, cities, islands
and mainlands discovered; in such a way nevertheless that
of all the fruits, profits, enoluments, commodities, gains and
revenues accruing from this voyage, the said John and sons
and their heirs and deputies shall be bounden and under oblig-
ation for every their voyage, as often as they shall arrive
at our port of Bristol, at which they are bound and holden only
to arrive, all necessary charges and expenses incurred by
them having been deducted, to pay to us, either in goods or
money, the fifth part of the whole capital gained, we giving and
granting to them and their heirs and deputies, that they shall
be free and exempt from all payment of customs on all and
singular the goods and merchandise that they may bring back
with them from those places newly discovered.

And further we have given and granted to them and to their
heirs and deputies, that all mainlands, islands, towns, cities,
castles and other places whatsoever discovered by them, however
numerous they may happen to be, may not be frequented or
visited by any other subjects of ours whatsoever without the
licence of the aforesaid John and his sons and of their deputies,
on pain of loss as well of the ships or vessels daring to sail
to these places discovered, as of all goods whatsoever. Willing
and strictly commanding all singular our subjects as well
as by land as by sea, that they shall render good assistance to the
aforesaid John and his sons and deputies, and that they shall
give them all their favour and help as well in fitting out the
ships or vessels as in buying stores and provisions with their
money and in providing the other things which they must take
with them on the said voyage.

In witness whereof, etc.
Witness ourself at Westminster on the fifth day of March.
By the King himself, etc.

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