European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648

By Frances Gardiner Davenport | Go to book overview

1.
The Bull Romanus Pontifex (Nicholas V.). January 8, 1455.

INTRODUCTION.

Columbus, returning from his first voyage to America, was driven by storms into the river Tagus. On March 9, 1493, he was received by the King of Portugal, who "showed that he felt disgusted and grieved because he believed that this discovery [of the lands found by Columbus] was made within the seas and bounds of his lordship of Guinea which was prohibited and likewise because the said Admiral was somewhat raised from his condition and in the account of his affairs always went beyond the bounds of the truth".1 The king said "that he understood that, in the capitulation2 between the sovereigns [of Castile] and himself, that conquest [which Columbus had made] belonged to him.3 The admiral replied that he had not seen the capitulation, nor knew more than that the sovereigns had ordered him not to go either to La Mina4 or to any other port of Guinea, and that this had been ordered to be proclaimed in all the ports of Andalusia before he sailed".5 Thus, before Columbus had arrived in Spain, his discoveries in the New World threatened to create an international difficulty. To explain this difficulty it is necessary to consider the earlier history of the conflicting claims of Portugal and Castile to the newly discovered lands.

The first such conflict concerned the Canary Islands, rediscovered in the latter part of the thirteenth century. In 1344, on the ground that he wished to Christianize these islands, Don Luis de la Cerda, admiral of France and great-grandson of Alfonso the Wise, obtained a bull of investiture from Pope

____________________
1
The whole passage from Ruy de Pina, Chronica d'El Rei Dom Joaõ II., in J. F. Corrêa da Serra , Collecçaõ de Livros Ineditos de Historia Portugueza, pub. by the Academia Real das Sciencias, Lisbon, II. 178-179, is translated in a foot-note to the translation of the "Journal of the First Voyage of Columbus", in J. E. Olson and E. G. Bourne , The Northmen, Columbus, and Cabot ( 1906), pp. 255-256, in J. F. Jameson series of Original Narratives of Early American History.
2
The treaty of Alcaçovas. See below, Doc. 3.
3
According to Ruy de Pina, "that conquest" was the "islands of Cipango and Antilia". Vignaud points out ( Histoire Critique, I. 368 ff.) that there is no evidence that the Indies were mentioned in this interview, but, as Vander Linden remarks, Columbus placed the island of Cipango in the "sea of the Indies". American Historical Review, XXII. 12, note 30.
4
Elmina, on the Gold Coast; known also as S. Jorge da Mina, or, in English, St. George of the Mine. In 1482 Diogo d'Azambuja, acting under royal orders, built a fort there to protect Portuguese commerce. J. de Barros, Da Asia, I. ( 1778), dec. I., liv. III., cc. 1, 2. Cf. Doc. 4, introduction.
5
Journal of the First Voyage of Columbus, in Olson and Bourne, The Northmen, Columbus, and Cabot, p. 254. The royal letter prohibiting Columbus from going to the Mine is in Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages ( 1825-1837), tom. III., no. 11, pp. 483-484.

-9-

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