129. John Cabot Seeks a Shorter Route to India and Finds North America. When stingy old Henry VII realized the greatness of the discovery of Columbus, he was, no doubt, a bit sorry that he had refused him aid. But in the old seaport town of Bristol, England, lived many English sailors. Among them was John Cabot, who was born in Columbus’ own town and later had gone to Venice. But, after a great deal of experience on the Mediterranean, he finally settled in Bristol.

John Cabot agreed with Columbus that the world is round, and thought that be could make his name and fame by discovering a northwest passage to India. Only five years after Columbus reached the New World, Cabot made his trip to what is believed to be the present Cape Breton (1497).

We are not sure of the region, but somewhere on this bleak land he planted the flags of Venice and of England side by side, and took possession in the name of England.

In May, 1498, he set out again, with more sailors and a larger fleet, but the way to India did not open for Cabot. He turned southward, probably as far as North Carolina. On this discovery England laid claim to the whole of North America.

We have seen that Spain claimed the same region, but since her last expeditions under De Soto and Coronado had not turned out well, she looked to Mexico and Peru for gold and silver. England was slow. She did nothing more in America for nearly a hundred years.

130. The Quarrel between the King of England and the King of Spain. After Cabot failed to find a new way to India, King Henry VII did nothing more to help English discovery. His son, Henry VIII, got into a great quarrel with Charles V of Spain over getting a divorce from his wife, an aunt of Charles. The pope and Charles took the side of Catherine. Henry was too busy with this quarrel to thimk much about America.

The hatred between the two kings was partly due to religion. On the continent and in England great changes in religious belief and practice were taking place. This period, with its new ideas and changes, is called the Reformation.

131. The Great Leaders in the Conflict. The chief centers of the Reformation were among German-speaking peoples. There were two great leaders of this revolt, Luther and Calvin. Luther, the more aggressive leader, was a professor in the University of Wittenburg. He defied the pope, and was declared a heretic. Finally he and other leaders split the church into Protestants and Roman Catholics. The Protestants following Luther were called Lutherans. Large numbers of them emigrated to America in the colonial period.

Calvin, born in France, lived as a student in Paris, but was forced to flee, and found safety in Geneva, Switzerland. The greater number of Protestants who followed his teachings lived in France and were called Huguenots. We have already seen Admiral Coligny trying to make a settlement for them in Florida. Calvin’s followers in Germany were generally called Calvinists; in England they were called Presbyterians.

Among the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation was Loyola, a Spaniard and a soldier. He received a wound while fighting the

French (1521) which turned his mind to religion, and he resolved to be a missionary. He became the founder of the order of the Society of Jesus, called the Jesuits.

In England, another Catholic who spent his life in defense of the papacy was Reginald Pole. He was made cardinal by the pope, whom he aided against Henry VIII, and rose to be Archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of Queen Mary.

132. Henry VIII Becomes Head of the English Church. Henry, King of England, in his double quarrel with the King of Spain and the pope, brought about the separation of the English Church and the Roman. Still there were Roman Catholics faithful to the pope and their early teachings. Others belonged to the English Church, of which the king had been declared the head by the English Parliament.

Many Englishmen went to join Luther, Calvin, and other leaders of the religious revolt. Many more left England when Mary, a Roman Catholic, became queen

The succession of Elizabeth to the throne of England was the signal for the return of these Englishmen. They came back, filled with enthusiasm for the new ideas. Many of these people did not agree in their religious views either with the Catholics or with the Church of England, and they were called Puritans. The discussions and debates over religious questions divided the English Church into Puritans and Episcopalians, as they were later called.

The Puritans, ambitious to change the ways of worship still further, separated into two great bodies, the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians. The Congregationalists, driven by persecution, sought homes in New England, where twenty-five thousand settled between 1620 and 1640. Large numbers of Presbyterians came into the mountainous regions of Virginia and Pennsylvania, besides locating in other colonies. Roman Catholics settled mostly in Maryland. Many thousands belonging to the English Church occupied the southern colonies.

133. Elizabeth’s Plans, and the Puritans. When Elizabeth mounted the throne (1558) she had one great purpose,— to lift England from its lowly position to the first place among the nations of the world. But Englishmen were divided in regard to religious views, The Puritans gave Elizabeth a great deal of trouble and made the nations on the continent of Europe feel that Englishmen were not loyal to their queen.

But she won everybody to her side, the Puritans included, except people of extreme views, by appealing to all Englishmen to stand by her against the enemies of England. The people, discovering a plot to kill Elizabeth, were aroused to the highest pitch of indignation. Englishmen signed a mighty oath to put to death anybody trying to kill the queen.

Elizabeth was said to be haughty to her courtiers but tenderly sympathetic to the "common people." She was called vain, and had a great fondness for fine clothes and jewels. She loved to appear in public surrounded by her nobles and ladies, richly dressed. It is even said that she loved flattery, but through it all she was believed to be so devoted to her country and its people that she received the title of "Good Queen Bess."

During Elizabeth’s long reign the country prospered and the people adopted more modern ways of living. The old feudal castle, no longer needed for defense, gave way to the Elizabethan palace, decorated with pictures and tapestries. Grace and beauty in furniture became the rule. Luxuries of an earlier day rapidly became necessities.

134. Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth, however, had two powerful enemies—the pope and the King of Spain. The pope had refused to call her the rightful Queen of England because she had persecuted Roman Catholics for religion’s sake, and because the beautiful and fascinating Mary, Queen of Scots, put forth her claim for the queenship of England. Mary had appealed to the pope and the King of Spain for aid against Elizabeth.

Spain had become the most powerful Roman Catholic nation in Europe. Her king could call to his aid the largest armies and the mightiest navies in the world.

Unfortunately, Mary had been driven into England by a dangerous uprising against her among the Scots. Elizabeth threw her into prison, where she was kept for over eighteen years. Two such masterful women could not be near each other without trouble. Mary was beautiful and winning, and had powerful friends in England and on the Continent. Elizabeth was a woman of great energy and ability and had raised England from a weak to a powerful nation. As Roman Catholics looked to Spain as their leader, so Protestants all over Europe looked upon England as the champion of their cause.

Plot after plot against the life of Elizabeth pointed to Mary, but Mary denied the charges. Englishmen in high places called for her trial. Finally she was tried, declared guilty, and died like a martyr.

All Europe shuddered at the news of Mary’s execution, and King Philip of Spain summoned his army and navy for the invasion of England to avenge her death. We shall presently see how this Great Armada, as it was called, met defeat at the hands of Englishmen.

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© 2001 by Lynn Waterman