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

By Frances Gardiner Davenport | Go to book overview

5.
The Bull Inter Caetera (Alexander VI.). May 3, 1493.

INTRODUCTION.

Immediately upon learning of the discoveries made by Columbus and of the claims of Portugal thereto,1 Ferdinand and Isabella appear to have despatched an account of the same to the court at Rome. In consequence of these and later representations, Pope Alexander VI., a native of Valencia, and a friend of King Ferdinand,2 issued three bulls, dated May 3 and May 4, which were highly favorable to Spain. By the first, the bull Inter caetera of May 3, the pope assigned to the present and future sovereigns of Castile the lands discovered and to be discovered by their envoys and not previously possessed by any Christian owner. On the other hand, he safeguarded the concessions already made to Portugal with the proviso that by this gift "no right conferred on any Christian prince is hereby to be understood as withdrawn or to be withdrawn". The pope also commanded Ferdinand and Isabella to send men to instruct the inhabitants of these newly discovered lands in the Catholic faith and in good morals, and, following the precedent of the bull Romanus pontifex,3 forbade anyone to go to them for trade or other purposes without special permit from the rulers of Castile.4 He empowered the sovereigns of Castile to enjoy in respect to their discoveries the rights previously granted to Portugal in respect to hers, as if the terms of the grants to Portugal were repeated in this bull.


BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Text: MS. and facsimile. The original manuscript of the promulgated bull is in the Archives of the Indies at Seville, Patronato 1-1-1, no. 1,

____________________
1
See above, p. 9.
2
There are many evidences of this pope's friendliness to Spain. Cf. Pastor, Geschichte der Päpste III. 515. H. Rossbach, Das Leben und die Politisch-Kirchliche Wirksamkeit des Bernaldino Lopez de Carvajal (1892). See also Vander Linden, "Alexander VI.", etc., American Historical Review, XXII. 13-15.
3
Doc. 1.
4
It is noteworthy that the restrictions in respect to trade in the prohibited articles, which are emphasized in the bull Romanus pontifex (Doc. 1), are omitted here. There is plenty of evidence that about this time the Portuguese were finding the commercial restrictions imposed by the Church very onerous. Cf. the bulls of Sept. 13, 1496; July 4, 1505 (see Doc. 1, note 21); and Apr. 2, 1506. L. A. Rebello da Silva, Corpo Diplomatico Portuguez (Acad. Real das Sciencias, Lisbon, 1862--), I. 59 ff., 97 ff.

-56-

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